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A. E., 












November 191 1. 


* It remains for ever true that the proper study of mankind is man ; 
and even early man is not beneath contempt, especially when he proves 
to have had within him the makings of a great race, with its highest 
notions of duty and right, and all else that is noblest in the human soul.' 

The Right Hon. Sir John Rhys. 



Preface xi-xiii 

Introduction xv-xxviii 


Environment 1-16 

Psychical Interpretation — The Mysticism of Erin and 
Armorica — In Ireland — In Scotland — In the Isle of Man — 
Jn Wales — In Cornwall — In Brittany^ 

The Taking of Evidence 17-225 

Method of Presentation — The Logical Verdict — Trustworthi^ 
ness of Legends — ^The Fairy-Faith held by the highly educated 
Celt as well as by the Celtic Peasant — The Evidence is 
complete and adequate — Its Analysis — The Fairy Tribes 
dealt with — Witnesses and their Testimony : from Ireland, 
with Introduction by Dr. Doiiglas Hyde; from Scotland, with 
Introduction by Dr. Alexander Carmichael ; from the Isle of 
Man, with Introduction by Miss Sophia Morrison ; from Wales, 
with Introduction by the Right Hon. Sir John Rh^s ; from 
Cornwall, with Introduction by Mr. Henry Jenner ; and from 
Brittany, with Introduction by Professor Anatole Le Braz. 


An Anthropological Examination of the Evi- 
dence . . 226-82 

The Celtic Fairy-Faith as Part of a World-wide Animism — 
Shaping Influence of Social Psychology — Smallness of Elvish 
Spirits and Fairies, according to Ethnology, Animism, and 
Occult Sciences — The Changeling Belief and its Explanation 
according to the Kidnap, Human-Sacrifice, Soul-Wandering, 
and Demon-Possession Theory — Ancient and Modern Magic 
and Witchcraft shown to be based on definite psychological laws 
— Exorcisms — Taboos, of Name, Food, Iron, Place — Taboos 
among Ancient Celts — Food-Sacrifice — Legend of the Dead 
— Conclusion : the Background of the Modern Belief in Fairies 
is Animistic. 






The People of the Goddess Dana or the Sidhb 283-307 

The Goddess Dana and the Modern Cult of St. Brigit — The 
Tuatha De Danann or Sidhe conquered by the Sons of Mil — 
But Irish Seers still see the Sidhe — Old Irish Manuscripts faith- 
fully represent the Tuatha De Danann — The Sidhe as a Spirit 
Race — Sidhe Palaces — The ' Taking ' of Mortals — Hill Visions 
of Sidhe Women — Sidhe Minstrels and Musicians — Social 
Organization and Warfare among the Sidhe — The Sidhe War- 
Goddesses, the Badh — The Sidhe at the Battle of Clontarf, 
A. D. 1014 — Conclusion, 


^ Brythonic Divinities and the Brythonic Fairy- 
Faith . . 308-31 

The God Arthur and the Hero Arthur — Sevenfold Evidence 
to show Arthur as an Incarnate Fairy King — Lancelot the 
Foster-son of a Fairy Woman — Galahad, the Offspring of 
Lancelot and the Fairy Woman Elayne — Arthur as a Fairy 
King in Kulhwch and Olwen — Gwynn ab Nudd — -Arthur like 
Dagda, and like Osiris — Brythonic Fairy Romances : their 
Evolution and Antiquity — Arthur in Nennius, Geoffrey, 
Wace, and in Layamon — CambrensisC^ Otherworld Tale — 
Norman-French writers of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries 
— Romans d' A venture and Romans Bretons — Origins of the 

^ ' Matter of Britain ' — Fairy Romance Episodes in Welsh 

^Literature — Brythonic Origins. 

The Celtic Otherworld 332-57 

General Ideas of the Otherworld : its Location ; its Sub- 
jectivity ; its Names ; its Extent ; Tethra one of its kings — 
The Silver Branch and the Golden Bough ; and Initiations — 
The Otherworld the Heaven-World of all Religions — Voyage 
of Bran — Cormac in the Land of Promise — Magic Wands — 
Cuchulainn's Sick-Bed — Ossian's Return from Fairyland — 
Lanval's going to Avalon — Voyage of Mael-Duin — Voyage 
of Teigue — Adventures of Art — Cuchulainn's and Arthur's 
Otherworld Quests — Literary Evolution of idea of Happy 




The Celtic Doctrine of Re-Birth . . . 358-96 

Re-birth and Otherworld — As a Christian Doctrine — General 
Historical Survey — According to the Barddas MSS. ; accord- 
ing to Ancient and Modern Authorities — Re-incarnation of 
the Tuatha De Danann — King Mongan's Re-birth — Etain's 
Birth — Dermot's Pre-existence — Tuan's Re-birth — Re-birth 
among Brythons — Arthur as a Re-incarnate Hero — Non- 
Celtic Parallels — Re-birth among Modern Celts : in Ireland ; 
in Scotland ; in the Isle of Man ; in Wales ; in Cornwall ; in 
Brittany — Origin and Evolution of Celtic Re-birth Doctrine. 




The Testimony of Archaeology . . . 397-426 

Inadequacy of Pygmy Theory — According to the Theories 
concerning Divine Images and Fetishes, Gods, Daemons, and 
Ancestral Spirits haunt Megaliths — Megaliths are religious 
and funereal, as shown chiefly by Cenn Cruaich, Stonehenge, 
Guernsey menhirs. Monuments in Brittany, by the Circular 
Fairy-Dance as an Ancient Initiatory Sun-Dance, by Breton 
Earthworks, Archaeological Excavations generally, and by 
present-day Worship at Indian Dolmens — New Grange and 
Celtic Mysteries : Evidence of manuscripts ; Evidence of Tradi- 
tion — The Aengus Cult — New Grange compared with Great 
Pyramid : both have Astronomical Arrangement and same 
Internal Plan — Why they open to the Sunrise — Initiations in 
both — Great Pyramid as Model for Celtic Tumuli — Gavrinis 
and New Grange as Spirit Temples. 

The Testimony of Paganism .... 427-41 

Edicts against Pagan Cults — Cult of Sacred Waters and its 
Absorption by Christianity — Celtic Water Divinities — Druidic 
Influence on Fairy-Faith — Cult of Sacred Trees — Cult of 
Fairies, Spirits, and the Dead — Feasts of the Dead — Con- 




The Testimony of Christianity .... 442-55 

Lough Derg a Sacred Lake originally — Purgatorial Rites as 
Christianized Survivals of Ancient Celtic Rites — Purgatory 
as Fairyland — Purgatorial Rites parallel to Pagan Initiation 
Ceremonies — The Death and Resurrection Rite — Breton 
Pardons compared — Relation to Aengus Cult and Celtic 
Cave-Temples — Origin of Purgatorial Doctrine pre-Christian 
— Celtic and Roman Feasts of dead shaped Christian ones — 
Fundamental Unity of Mythologies, Religions, and the Fairy- 





Science and Fairies 456-91 

Method of Examination : Exoteric and Esoteric aspects — 
The X-quantity — Scientific attitudes toward the Animistic 
Hypothesis : Materialistic Theory ; Pathological Theory ; 
Delusion and Imposture Theory ; Problems of Conscious- 
ness : Dreams ; Supernormal Lapse of Time — Psychical 
Research and Fairies: Myers's researches — Present Position of 
Psychical Research — Psychical Research and Anthropology 
in Relation to the Fairy-Faith, according to a special 
contribution from Mr. Andrew Lang — Final Testing of the 
X-quantity — Conclusion : the Celtic Belief in Fairies and 
in Fairyland is scientific. 


The Celtic Doctrine of Re-Birth and Otherworld 

Scientifically Examined .... 492-515 

The Extension of the Terms Fairy and Fairyland — The Real 
Man as an Invisible Force acting through a Body-Conductor 
— A Psychical Organ essential for Memory — Pre-existence 
a Scientific Necessity — ^The Vitalistic View of Evolution — 
Old Theory of Heredity disproved — Embryology supports 
Re-birth Doctrine — Psycho-physical Evolution — Memory 
of previous Existences in Subconsciousness — Examples — 
Dream Psychology furnishes clearest Illustrations — No Post- 
existence without Pre-existence — Resurrection as Re-birth 
— The Circle of Life — The Mystical Corollary — Conclusion : 
the Celtic Doctrine of Re-birth and Otherworld is essentially 

Index 516-24 


During the years 1907-9 this study first took shape, 
being then based mainly on Hterary sources ; and during 
the latter year it was successfully presented to the Faculty of 
Letters of the University of Rennes, Brittany, for the Degree 
of Docteur-h-Lettres, Since then I have re-investigated the 
whole problem of the Celtic belief in Fairies, and have 
collected very much fresh material. Two years ago the scope 
of my original research was limited to the four chief Celtic 
countries, but now it includes all of the Celtic countries. 

In the present study, which has profited greatly by 
criticisms of the first passed by scholars in Britain and 
in France, the original literary point of view is combined 
with the broader point of view of anthropology. This 
study, the final and more comprehensive form of my views 
about the * Fairy-Faith *, would never have been possible 
had I not enjoyed during many months the kindly advice 
and constant encouragement of Mr. R. R. Marett, Reader in 
Social Anthropology in the University of Oxford, and Fellow 
of Exeter College. 

During May 19 10 the substance of this essay in its 
pan-Celtic form was submitted to the Board of the Faculty 
of Natural Science of Oxford University for the Research 
Degree of Bachelor of Science, which was duly granted. 
But the present work contains considerable material not 
contained in the essay presented to the Oxford examiners, 
the Right Hon. Sir John Rh^^s and Mr. Andrew Lang ; and, 
therefore, I alone assume entire responsibility for all its 
possible shortcomings, and in particular for some of its 
more speculative theories, which to some minds may appear 
to be in conflict with orthodox views, whether of the theo- 
logian or of the man of science. These theories, however 
venturesome they may appear, are put forth in almost every 



case with the full approval of some reliable, scholarly Celt ; 
and as such they are chiefly intended to make the exposition 
of the belief in fairies as completely and as truly Celtic 
as possible, without much regard for non-Celtic opinion, 
whether this be in harmony with Celtic opinion or not. 

As the new manuscript of the * Fairy-Faith ' lies beforp 
me revised and finished, I realize even more fully than I did 
two years ago with respect to the original study, how little 
right I have to call it mine. Those to whom the credit for 
it really belongs are my many kind friends and helpers in 
Ireland, Scotland, Isle of Man, Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany, 
and many others who are not Celts, in the three great nations 
— happily so intimately united now by unbreakable bonds 
of goodwill and international brotherhood —Britain, France, 
and the United States of America ; for without the aid of 
all these Celtic and non-Celtic friends the work could never 
have been accomplished. They have given me their best 
and rarest thoughts as so many golden threads ; I have 
only furnished the mental loom, and woven these golden 
threads together in my own way according to what I take 
to be the psychological pattern of the Fairy-Faith. 

I am under a special obligation to the following six dis- 
tinguished Celtic scholars who have contributed, for my 
second chapter, the six introductions to the fairy-lore 
collected by me in their respective countries : — Dr. Douglas 
Hyde (Ireland) ; Dr. Alexander Carmichael (Scotland) ; 
Miss Sophia Morrison (Isle of Man) ; the Right Hon. 
Sir John Rhys (Wales) ; Mr. Henry Jenner (Cornwall) ; 
Professor Anatole Le Braz (Brittany). 

I am also greatly indebted to the Rev. J. Estlin Carpenter, 
Principal of Manchester College, for having aided me with 
the parts of this book touching Christian theology; to 
Mr. R. I. Best, M.R.I. A., Assistant Librarian, National 
Library, Dublin, for having aided me with the parts de- 
voted to Irish mythology and Uterature ; and to Mr. William 
McDougall, Wilde Reader in Mental Philosophy in the 
University of Oxford, for a similar service with respect to 
Section IV, entitled Science and Fairies. And to these 


and to all the other scholars whose names appear in this 
preface, my heartiest thanks are due for the assistance which 
they have so kindly rendered in reading different parts of 
the Fairy-Faith when in proof. 

With the deep spirit of reverence which a student feels 
towards his preceptors, I acknowledge a still greater debt 
to those among my friends and helpers who have been 
my Celtic guides and teachers. Here in Oxford University 
I have run up a long account with the Right Hon. Sir John 
Rh^s, the Professor of Celtic, who has introduced me to 
the study of Modern Irish, and of Arthurian romance and 
mythology, and has guided me both during the year 1907-8 
and ever since in Celtic folk-lore generally. To Mr. Andrew 
Lang, I am likewise a debtor, more especially in view of the 
important suggestions which he has given me during the 
past two years with respect to anthropology and to psychical 
research. In my relation to the Faculty of Letters of the 
University of Rennes, I shall always remember the friendly 
individual assistance offered to me there during the year 
1908-9 by Professor Joseph Loth, then Dean in that 
University, but now of the College of France, in Paris, 
particularly with respect to Brythonic mythology, philology, 
and archaeology ; by Professor Georges Dottin, particularly 
with respect to Gaelic matters ; and by Professor Anatole 
Le Braz, whose continual good wishes towards my work 
have been a constant source of inspiration since our first 
meeting during March 1908, especially in my investigation 
of La Legende de la Mort, and of the related traditions and 
living folk-beliefs in Brittany — Brittany with its haunted 
ground of Carnac, home of the ancient Brythonic Mysteries. 

W. Y. E. W. 

Jesus College, Oxford. 
All Saints' Day, 191 1. 

* There, neither turmoil nor silence. ... 

' Though fair the sight of Erin's plains, hardly will they seem so after 
you have known the Great Plain. ... 

. ' A wonder of a land the land of which I speak ; no youth there grows 
to old age. ... 

'We behold and are not beheld.' — The God Midir, in Tochmarc Etaine. 


' I have told what I have seen, what I have thought, and what I have 
learned by inquiry.' — Herodotus. 

I. The Religious Nature of the Fairy-Faith 

There is probably no other place in Celtic lands more 
congenial, or more inspiring for the writing down of one's 
deeper intuitions about the Fairy-Faith, than Carnac, under 
the shadow of the pagan tumulus and mount of the sacred 
fire, now dedicated by triumphant Christianity to the 
Archangel Michael. The very name of Carnac is signifi- 
cant ; ^ and in two continents, Africa and Europe — to follow 
the certain evidence of archaeology alone ^ — there seem 
to have been no greater centres for ancient religion than 
Karnak in Egypt and Carnac in Brittany. On the banks of 
the Nile the Children of Isis and Osiris erected temples as 
perfect as human art can make them ; on the shores of 
the Morbihan the mighty men who were, as it seems, the 
teachers of our own Celtic forefathers, erected temples of 
unhewn stone. The wonderful temples in Yucatan, the 
temple-caves of prehistoric India, Stonehenge in England, the 
Parthenon, the Acropolis, St. Peter's at Rome, Westminster 
Abbey, or Notre-Dame, and the Pyramids and temples of 
Egypt, equally with the Alignements of Carnac, each in 
their own way record more or less perfectly man's attempt 
to express materially what he feels spiritually. Perfected 
art can beautify and make more attractive to the eye and 
mind, but it cannot enhance in any degree the innate spiritual 

* Quite appropriately it means place of cairns or tumuli — those pre- 
historic monuments religious and funereal in their purposes. Carnac seems 
to be a Gallo-Roman form. According to Professor J. Loth, the Breton 
(Celtic) forms would be : old Celtic, Carndco-s ; old Breton (ninth-eleventh 
century), Carnoc ; Middle Breton (eleventh-sixteenth century), Carneuc ; 
Modern Breton, Carnec. 

* For we cannot offer any proof of what at first sight appears like a philo- 
logical relation or identity between Carnac and Karnak. 



ideals which men in all ages have held ; and thus it is that 
we read amid the rough stone menhirs and dolmens in 
Brittany, as amid the polished granite monoliths and 
magnificent temples in Egypt, the same silent message from 
the past to the present, from the dead to the living. This 
message, we think, is fundamentally important in under- 
standing the Celtic Fairy- Faith ; for in our opinion the 
belief in fairies has the same origin as all religions and 

And there seems never to have been an uncivilized tribe, 
a race, or nation of civilized men who have not had some 
form of belief in an unseen world, peopled by unseen beings. 
In religions, mythologies, and the Fairy-Faith, too, we 
behold the attempts which have been made by different 
peoples in different ages to explain in terms of human ex- 
perience this unseen world, its inhabitants, its laws, and 
man's relation to it. The Ancients called its inhabitants 
gods, genii, daemons, and shades ; Christianity knows them 
as angels, saints, demons, and souls of the dead ; to un- 
civilized tribes they are gods, demons, and spirits of ances- 
tors ; and the Celts think of them as gods, and as fairies of 
many kinds. 

II. The Interpretation of the Fairy-Faith 

By the Celtic Fairy-Faith we mean that specialized form 
of belief in a spiritual realm inhabited by spiritual beings 
which has existed from prehistoric times until now in 
Ireland, Scotland, Isle of Man, Wales, Cornwall, Brittany, 
or other parts of the ancient empire of the Celts. In study- 
ing this belief, we are concerned directly with living Celtic 
folk-traditions, and with past Celtic folk-traditions as re- 
corded in literature. And if fairies actually exist as invisible 
beings or intelligences, and our investigations lead us to the 
tentative hypothesis that they do, they are natural and not 
supernatural, for nothing which exists can be supernatural ; 
and, therefore, it is our duty to examine the Celtic Fairy 
Races just as we examine any fact in the visible realm 


wherein we now live, whether it be a fact of chemistry, of 
physics, or of biology. However, as we proceed to make 
such an examination, we shall have to remember constantly 
that there is a new set of ideas to work with, entirely different 
from what we find in natural sciences, and often no adequate 
vocabulary based on common human experiences. An 
American who has travelled in Asia and an Englishman who 
has travelled in Australia may meet in Paris and exchange 
travelling experiences with mutual understanding, because 
both of them have experienced travel ; and they will have 
an adequate vocabulary to describe each experience, because 
most men have also experienced travel. But a saint who 
has known the spiritual condition called ecstasy cannot 
explain ecstasy to a man who has never known it, and if 
he should try to do so would discover at once that no modern 
language is suitable for the purpose. His experience is rare 
and not universal, and men have developed no complete 
vocabulary to describe experiences not common to the 
majority of mankind, and this is especially true of psychical 
experiences. It is the same in dealing with fairies, as these 
are hypothetically conceived, for only a few men and women 
can assert that they have seen fairies, and hence there is 
no adequate vocabulary to describe fairies. Among the 
Ancients, who dealt so largely with psychical sciences, there 
seems to have been a common language which could be used 
to explain the invisible world and its inhabitants ; but we 
of this age have not yet developed such a language. Con- 
sequently, men who deny human immortality, as well as 
men with religious faith who have not through personal 
psychical experiences transformed that faith into a fact, 
nowadays when they happen to read what Plato, lamblichus, 
or any of the Neo-Platonists have written, or even what 
moderns have written in attempting to explain psychic facts, 
call it all mysticism. And to the great majority of Europeans 
and Americans, mysticism is a most convenient noun, applic- 
able to anything which may seem reasonable yet wholly 
untranslatable in terms of their own individual experience ; 
and mysticism usually means something quite the reverse' 



of scientific simply because we have by usage unwisely 
limited the meaning of the word science to a knowledge of 
things material and visible, whereas it really means a know- 
ing or a knowledge of everything which exists. We have 
tried to deal with the rare psychical experiences of Irish, 
Scotch, Manx, Welsh, or Breton seers, and psychics generally, 
in the clearest language possible ; but if now and then we 
are charged with being mystical, this is our defence. 

III. The Method of Studying the Fairy-Faith 

In this study, which is first of all a folk-lore study, we 
pursue principally an anthropo-psychological method of 
interpreting the Celtic belief in fairies, though we do not 
hesitate now and then to call in the aid of philology ; and 
we make good use of the evidence offered by mythologies, 
religions, metaphysics, and physical sciences. Folk-lore, 
a century ago was considered beneath the serious considera- 
tion of scholars ; but there has come about a complete 
reversal of scholarly opinion, for now it is seen that the 
beliefs of the people, their legends, and their songs are the 
source of nearly all literatures, and that their institutions 
and customs are the origin of those of modern times. And, 
to-day, to the new science of folk-lore, — which, as Mr. 
Andrew Lang says, must be taken to include psychical 
research or psychical sciences, — archaeology, anthropology, 
and comparative mythology and religion are indispensable. 
Thus folk-lore offers the scientific means of studying man in 
the sense meant by the poet who declared that the proper 
study of mankind is man. 

IV. Divisions of the Study 

This study is divided into four sections or parts. The first 
one deals with the living Fairy-Faith among the Celts them- 
selves ; the second, with the recorded and ancient Fairy- 
Faith as we find it in Celtic literature and mythology ; the 
third, with the Fairy-Faith in its religious aspects ; and in 
the fourth section an attempt has been made to suggest 


how the theories of our newest science, psychical research, 
explain the belief in fairies. 

I have set forth in the first section in detail and as clearly 
as possible the testimony communicated to me by living 
Celts who either believe in fairies, or else say that they have 
seen fairies ; &nd throughout other sections I have pre- 
ferred to draw as much as possible of the material from men 
and women rather than from books. Books too often are 
written out of other books, and too seldom from the life of 
man ; and in a scientific study of the Fairy-Faith, such as 
we have undertaken, the Celt himself is by far the best, in 
fact the only authority. For us it is much less important 
to know what scholars think of fairies than to know what 
the Celtic people think of fairies. This is especially true in 
considering the Fairy-Faith as it exists now. 

V. The Collecting of Material 

In June, 1908, after a year's preparatory work in things 
Celtic under the direction of the Oxford Professor of Celtic, 
Sir John Rhys, I began to travel in Wales, Ireland, Scotland, 
and Brittany, and to collect material there at first hand 
from the people who have shaped and who still keep alive 
the Fairy-Faith ; and during the year 1909-10 fresh folk- 
lore expeditions were made into Brittany, Ireland, and 
Wales, and then, finally, the study of the Fairy-Faith was 
made pan-Celtic by similar expeditions throughout the Isle 
of Man, and into Cornwall. Many of the most remote parts 
of these lands were visited ; and often there was no other 
plan to adopt, or any method better, or more natural, than 
to walk day after day from one straw-thatched cottage to 
another, living on the simple wholesome food of the peasants. 
Sometimes there was the picturesque mountain-road to 
climb, sometimes the route lay through marshy peat-lands, 
or across a rolling grass-covered country ; and with each 
change of landscape came some new thought and some new 
impression of the Celtic life, or perhaps some new descrip- 
tion of a fairy, 
j b 2 


This immersion in the most striking natural and social 
environment of the Celtic race, gave me an insight into the 
mind, the religion, the mysticism, and the very heart of the 
Celt himself, such as no mere study in libraries ever could 
do. I tried to see the world as he does ; I participated in 
his innermost thoughts about the great problem of life and 
death, with which he of all peoples is most deeply concerned ; 
and thus he revealed to me the source of his highest ideals 
and inspirations. I daily felt the deep and innate serious- 
ness of his ancestral nature ; and, living as he lives, I tried 
in all ways to be like him. I was particularly qualified for 
such an undertaking : partly Celtic myself by blood and 
perhaps largely so by temperament, I found it easy to 
sympathize with the Celt and with his environments. 
Further, being by birth an American, I was in many places 
privileged to enter where an Englishman, or a non-Celt of 
Europe would not be ; and my education under the free 
ideals of a new-world democracy always made it possible 
for me to view economic, political, religious, and racial 
questions in Celtic lands apart from the European point of 
view, and without the European prejudices which are so 
numerous and so greatly to be regretted. But without any 
doubt, during my sojourn, extending over three years, 
among the Celts, these various environments shaped my 
thoughts about fairies and Fairyland — as they ought to 
have done if truth is ever to be reached by research. 

These experiences of mine lead me to believe that the 
natural aspects of Celtic countries, much more than those of 
most non-Celtic countries, impress man and awaken in him 
some unfamiliar part of himself — call it the Subconscious 
Self, the Subliminal Self, the Ego, or what you will — which 
gives him an unusual power to know and to feel invisible, 
or psychical, influences. What is there, for example, in 
London, or Paris, or Berlin, or New York to awaken the 
intuitive power of man, that subconsciousness deep-hidden 
in him, equal to the solitude of those magical environments 
of Nature which the Celts enjoy and love ? 

In my travels, when the weather was too wild to venture 


out by day, or when the more favourable hours of the night 
had arrived, with fires and candles lit, or even during a road- 
side chat amid the day's journey, there was gathered together 
little by little, from one country and another, the mass of 
testimony which chapter ii contains. And with all this my 
opinions began to take shape ; for when I set out from 
Oxford in June, I had no certain or clear ideas as to what 
fairies are, nor why there should be belief in them. In less 
than a year afterwards I found myself committed to the 
Psychological Theory, which I am herein setting forth. 

VI. Theories of the Fairy-Faith 

We make continual reference throughout our study to 
this Psychological Theory of the Nature and Origin of the 
Celtic Fairy-Faith, and it is one of our purposes to demon- 
strate that this is the root theory which includes or absorbs 
the four theories already advanced to account for the belief 
in fairies. To guide the reader in his own conclusions, we 
shall here briefly outline these four theories. 

The first of them may be called the Naturalistic Theory, 
which is, that in ancient and in modern times man's belief 
in gods, spirits, or fairies has been the direct result of his 
attempts to explain or to rationalize natural phenomena. 
Of this theory we accept as true that the belief in fairies 
often anthropomorphically reflects the natural environment 
as well as the social condition of the people who hold the 
belief. For example, amid the beautiful low-lying green 
hills and gentle dells of Connemara (Ireland), the ' good 
people ' are just as beautiful, just as gentle, and just as 
happy as their environment ; while amid the dark-rising 
mountains and in the mysterious cloud-shadowed lakes of 
the Scotch Highlands there are fiercer kinds of fairies and 
terrible water-kelpies, and in the Western Hebrides there is 
the much-dreaded * spirit-host ' moving through the air at 

The Naturalistic Theory shows accurately enough that 
natural phenomena and environment have given direction 


to the anthropomorphosing of gods, spirits, or fairies, but 
after explaining this external aspect of the Fairy-Faith it 
cannot logically go any further. Or if illogically it does 
attempt to explain the belief in gods, spirits, or fairies as 
due entirely to material causes, it becomes, in our opinion, 
like the psychology of fifty years ago, obsolete ; for now 
the new psychology or psychical research has been forced to 
admit — if only as a working hypothesis — the possibility of 
invisible intelligences or entities able to influence man and 
nature. We seem even to be approaching a scientific proof 
of the doctrines of such ancient philosophical scientists as 
Pythagoras and Plato, — that all external nature, animated 
throughout and controlled in its phenomena by daemons 
acting by the will of gods, is to men nothing more than the 
visible effects of an unseen world of causes. 

In the internal aspects of the Fairy-Faith the fundamental 
fact seems clearly to be that there must have been in the 
minds of prehistoric men, as there is now in the minds of 
modern men, a germ idea of a fairy for environment to act 
upon and shape. Without an object to act upon, environ- 
ment can accomplish nothing. This is evident. The Natura- 
listic Theory examines only the environment and its effects, 
and forgets altogether the germ idea of a fairy to be acted 
upon ; but the Psychological Theory remembers and 
attempts to explain the germ idea of a fairy and the effect 
of nature upon it. 

The second theory may be called the Pygmy Theory, 
which Mr. David MacRitchie, who is definitely committed 
to it, has so clearly set forth in his well-known work, entitled 
The Testimony of Tradition. This theory is that the whole 
fairy- belief has grown up out of a folk-memory of an actual 
Pygmy race. This race is supposed to have been a very 
early, prehistoric, probably Mongolian race, which inhabited 
the British Islands and many parts of Continental Europe. 
When the Celtic nations appeared, these pygmies were 
driven into mountain fastnesses and into the most inac- 
cessible places, where a few of them may have survived 
until comparatively historical times. 


Over against the champions of the Pygmy Theory may 
be set two of its opponents, Dr. Bertram C. A. Windle and 
Mr. Andrew Lang.^ Dr. Windle, in his Introduction to 
Tyson's Philological Essay concerning the Pygmies of the 
Ancients, makes these six most destructive criticisms or 
points against the theory : (i) So far as our present know- 
ledge teaches us, there never was a really Pygmy race 
inhabiting the northern parts of Scotland ; (2) the mounds 
with which the tales of little people are associated have not, 
in many cases, been habitations, but were natural or sepul- 
chral in their nature ; (3) little people are not by any 
means associated entirely with mounds ; (4) the association 
of giants and dwarfs in traditions confuses the theory ; 
(5) there are fairies where no pygmies ever were, as, for 
example, in North America ; (6) even Eskimos and Lapps 
have fairy beliefs, and could not have been the original 
fairies of more modern fairy-lore. Altogether, as we think 
our study will show, the evidence of the Fairy-Faith itself 
gives only a slender and superficial support to the Pygmy 
Theory. We maintain that the theory, so far as it is prov- 
able, and this is evidently not very far, is only one strand, 
contributed by ethnology and social psychology, in the 
complex fabric of the Fairy-Faith, and is, as such, woven 
round a psychical central pattern — the fundamental pattern 
of the Fairy-Faith. Therefore, from our point of view, the 
Pygmy Theory is altogether inadequate, because it over- 
looks or misinterprets the most essential and prominent 
elements in the belief which the Celtic peoples hold concern- 
ing fairies and Fairyland. 

The Druid Theory to account for fairies is less widespread. 
It is that the folk-memory of the Druids and their magical 
practices is alone responsible for the Fairy-Faith. The 
first suggestion of this theory seems to have been made by 
the Rev. Dr. Cririe, in his Scottish Scenery, published in 
1803.2 Three years later, the Rev. Dr. Graham published 

* Andrew Lang, Kirk's Secret Commonwealth (London, 1893), p. xviii; 
and History of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1900-07). 

* Cf . David MacRitchie's published criticisms of our Psychological Theory 


an identical hypothesis in his Sketches Descriptive of Pic- 
turesque Scenery on the Southern Confines of Perthshire. 
Mr. MacRitchie suggests, with all reason, that the two 
writers probably had discussed together the theory, and 
hence both put it forth. Alfred Maury, in Les Fees du 
Moyen-Age, published in 1843 at Paris, appears to have made 
liberal use of Patrick Graham's suggestions in propounding 
his theory that the fees or fairy women of the Middle Ages 
are due to a folk-memory of Druidesses. Maury seems to 
have forgotten that throughout pagan Britain and Ireland, 
both much more important for the study of fairies than Celtic 
Europe during the Middle Ages, Druids rather than Druidesses 
had the chief influence on the people, and that yet, despite 
this fact, Irish and Welsh mythology is full of stories about 
fairy women coming from the Otherworld ; nor is there any 
proof, or even good ground for argument, that the Irish 
fairy women are a folk-memory of Druidesses, for if there 
ever were Druidesses in Ireland they played a subordinate 
and very insignificant role. As in the case of the Pygmy 
Theory, we maintain that the Druid Theory, also, is in- 
adequate. It discovers a real anthropomorphic influence 
at work on the outward aspects of the Fairy- Faith, and 
illogically takes that to be the origin of the Fairy- Faith. 

The fourth theory, the Mythological Theory, is of very 
great importance. It is that fairies are the diminished 
figures of the old pagan divinities of the early Celts ; and 
many modern authorities on Celtic mythology and folk-lore 
hold it. To us the theory is acceptable so far as it goes. 
But it is not adequate in itself nor is it the root theory, 
because a belief in gods and goddesses must in turn be 
explained ; and in making this explanation we arrive at the 
Psychological Theory, which this study — perhaps the first 
one of its kind — attempts to set forth. 

in The Celtic Review (January 1910), entitled Druids and Mound-Dwellers ; 
also his first part of these criticisms, ib. (October 1909), entitled A New 
Solution of the Fairy Problem. 


VII. The Importance of Studying the Fairy-Faith 

I have made a very careful personal investigation of the 
surviving Celtic Fairy-Faith by living for many months 
with and among the people who preserve it ; I have com- 
pared fairy phenomena and the phenomena said to be 
caused by gods, genii, daemons, or spirits of different kinds 
and recorded in the writings ef ancient, mediaeval, and 
modern metaphysical philosophers. Christian and pagan 
saints, mystics, and seers, and now more or less clearly 
substantiated by from thirty to forty years of experimenta- 
tion in psychical sciences by eminent scientists of our own 
times, such as Sir William Crookes and Sir Oliver Lodge 
in England, and M. Camille Flammarion in France. As 
a result, I am convinced of the very great value of a serious 
study of the Fairy-Faith. The Fairy-Faith as the folk- 
religion of the Celts ought, like all religions, to be studied 
sympathetically as well as scientifically. To those who take 
a materialistic view of life, and consequently deny the 
existence of spirits or invisible intelligences such as fairies 
are said to be, we should say as my honoured American 
teacher in psychology, the late Dr. William James, of 
Harvard, used to say in his lectures at Stanford University, 
* Materialism considered as a system of philosophy never 
tries to explain the Why of things.' But in our study of 
the Fairy-Faith we shall attempt to deal with this Why of 
things ; and, then, perhaps the value of studying fairies 
and Fairyland will be more apparent, even to materialists. 

The great majority of men in cities are apt to pride them- 
selves on their own exemption from * superstition ', and to 
smile pityingly at the poor countrymen and countrywomen 
who believe in fairies. But when they do so they forget that, 
with all their own admirable progress in material invention, 
with cdl the far-reaching data of their acquired science, with 
all the vast extent of their commercial and economic conquests, 
they themselves have ceased to be natural. Wherever under 
modern conditions great multitudes of men and women are 
herded together there is bound to be an unhealthy psychical 



atmosphere never found in the country — an atmosphere 
which inevitably tends to develop in the average man who 
is not psychically strong enough to resist it, lower, at the 
expense of higher forces or qualities, and thus to inhibit any 
normal attempts of the Subliminal Self (a well-accredited 
psychological entity) to manifest itself in consciousness. In 
this connexion it is highly significant to note that, as far as 
can be determined, almost all professed materialists of the 
uncritical type, and even most of those who are thinking and 
philosophizing sceptics about the existence of a supersensuous 
realm or state of conscious being, are or have been city- 
dwellers — usually so by birth and breeding. And even where 
we find materialists of either type dwelling in the country, 
we generally find them so completely under the hypnotic 
sway of city influences and mould of thought in matters of 
education and culture, and in matters touching religion, that 
they have lost all sympathetic and responsive contact with 
Nature, because unconsciously they have thus permitted 
conventionality and unnaturalness to insulate them from it. 
The Celtic peasant, who may be their tenant or neighbour, 
is — if still uncorrupted by them — in direct contrast uncon- 
ventional and natural. He is normally always responsive to 
psychical influences — as much so as an Australian Arunta 
or an American Red Man, who also, like him, are fortunate 
enough to have escaped being corrupted by what we egotisti- 
cally, to distinguish ourselves from them, call ' civilization '. 
If our Celtic peasant has psychical experiences, or if he 
sees an apparition which he calls one of the * good people ', 
that is to say a fairy, it is useless to try to persuade him that 
he is under a delusion : unlike his materialistically-minded 
lord, he would not attempt nor even desire to make himself 
believe that what he has seen he has not seen. Not only has 
he the will to believe, but he has the right to believe ; because 
his belief is not a matter of being educated and reasoning 
logically, nor a matter of faith and theology — it is a fact of his 
own individual experiences, as he will tell you. Such peasant 
seers have frequently argued with me to the effect that * One 
does not have to be educated in order to see fairies '. 


Unlike the natural mind of the uncorrupted Celt, Arunta, 
or American Red Man, which is ever open to unusual psychical 
impressions, the mind of the business man in our great cities 
tends to be obsessed with business affairs both during his 
waking and during his dream states, the politician's with 
politics similarly, the society-leader's with society ; and the 
unwholesome excitement felt by day in the city is apt to 
be heightened at night through a satisfying of the feeling 
which it morbidly creates for relaxation and change of 
stimuli. In the slums, humanity is divorced from Nature 
under even worse conditions, and becomes wholly decadent. 
But in slum and in palace alike there is continually a feverish 
nerve-tension induced by unrest and worry ; there is impure 
and smoke-impregnated air, a lack of sunshine, a substitu- 
tion of artificial objects for natural objects, and in place of 
solitude the eternal din of traffic. Instead of Nature, men 
in cities (and paradoxically some conventionalized men in 
the country) have ' civilization ' — and * culture '. 

Are city-dwellers like these, Nature's unnatural children, 
who grind out their lives in an unceasing struggle for wealth 
and power, social position, and even for bread, fit to judge 
Nature's natural children who believe in fairies ? Are they 
right in not believing in an invisible world which they cannot 
conceive, which, if it exists, they — even though they be 
scientists — are through environment and temperament alike 
incapable of knowing ? Or is the country-dwelling, the 
sometimes * unpractical ' and * unsuccessful ', the dreaming, 
and ' uncivilized ' peasant right ? These questions ought to 
arouse in the minds of anthropologists very serious reflection, 
world-wide in its scope. 

At all events, and equally for the unbeliever and for the 
believer, the study of the Fairy-Faith is of vast importance 
historically, philosophically, religiously, and scientifically. 
In it lie the germs of much of our European religions and 
philosophies, customs, and institutions. And it is one of 
the chief keys to unlock the mysteries of Celtic mythology. 
We believe that a greater age is coming soon, when all the 
ancient mythologies wiU be carefully studied and interpreted, 


and when the mythology of the Celts will be held in very 
high esteem. But already an age has come when things 
purely Celtic have begun to be studied ; and the close observer 
can see the awakening genius of the modern Celt manifesting 
itself in the realm of scholarship, of literature, and even 
of art — throughout Continental Europe, especially France 
and Germany, throughout Great Britain and Ireland, and 
throughout the new Celtic world of America, as far west 
as San Francisco on the great calm ocean of the future 
facing Japan and China. In truth the Celtic empire is 
greater than it ever was before Caesar destroyed its political 
unity ; and its citizens have not forgotten the ancient faith 
of their ancestors in a world invisible. 

W. Y. E. W. 

* • * * 

' • • » » » 

• » »• , . ' 

'i » » > ' ' 




'In the Beauty of the World lies the ultimate redemption of our mortality. 
When we shall become at one with nature in a sense profounder even than 
the poetic imaginings of most of us, we shall understand what now we fail 
to discern.' — Fiona Macleod. 

Psychical interpretation — The mysticism of Erin and Armorica — In Ireland 
— In Scotland — In the Isle of Man — In Wales — In Cornwall — In 

As a preliminary to our study it is important, as we 
shall see later, to give some attention to the influences and 
purely natural environment under which the Fairy-Faith 
has grown up. And in doing so it will be apparent to what 
extent there is truth in the Naturalistic Theory ; though 
from the first our interpretation of Environment is funda- 
mentally psychical. In this first chapter, then, in so far as 
they can be recorded, we shall record a few impressions, 
which will, in a way, serve as introductory to the more 
definite and detailed consideration of the Fairy-Faith itself. 

Ireland and Brittany, the two extremes of the modern 
Celtic world, are for us the most important points from 
which to take our initial bearings. Both washed by the 
waters of the Ocean of Atlantis, the one an island, the other 
a peninsula, they have best preserved their old racial life in 
its simplicity and beauty, with its high ideals, its mystical 
traditions, and its strong spirituality. And, curious though 
the statement may appear to some, this preservation of 
older manners and traditions does not seem to be due so 
much to geographical isolation as to subtle forces so strange 
and mysterious that to know them they must be felt ; and 
their nature can only be suggested, for it cannot be described. 



2< ..;: r TH]^ LIVING FAIRY-FAITH sect, i 



Over Erin and Armorica, as over Egypt, there hovers a halo 
of romance, of strangeness, of mysticism real and positive ; 
and, if we mistake not the language of others, these phrases 
of ours but echo opinions common to many Celts native of 
the two countries — they who have the first right to testify ; 
and not only are there poets and seers among them, but 
men of the practical world as well, and men of high rank in 
scholarship, in literature, in art, and even in science. 

In Ireland 

If anyone would know Ireland and test these influences — 
influences which have been so fundamental in giving to the 
Fairy-Faith of the past something more than mere beauty 
of romance and attractive form, and something which even 
to-day, as in the heroic ages, is ever-living and ever-present 
in the centres where men of the second-sight say that they 
see fairies in that strange state of subjectivity which the 
peasant calls Fairyland — let him stand on the Hill of Tara 
silently and alone at sunset, in the noonday, in the mist 
of a dark day. Let him likewise silently and alone follow 
the course of the Boyne. Let him enter the silence of New 
Grange and of Dowth. Let him muse over the hiero- 
glyphics of Lough Crew. Let him feel the mystic beauty of 
Killarney, the peacefulness of Glendalough, of Monaster- 
boise, of Clonmacnois, and the isolation of Aranmore. Let 
him dare to enter the rings of fairies, to tempt the * good 
folk ' at their raths sjid forts. Let him rest on the ancient 
cairn above the mountain-palace of Finvara and look out 
across the battlefields of Moytura. Let him wander amid 
the fairy dells of gentle Connemara. Let him behold the 
Irish Sea from the Heights of Howth, as Fionn Mac Cumhail 
used to do. Let him listen to the ocean-winds amid Dun 
Aengus. Let him view the stronghold of Cuchulainn and the 
Red Branch Knights. Let him linger beside that mysterious 
lake which lies embosomed between two prehistoric cairns 
on the summit of enchanted Slieve Gullion, where yet dwells 
invisible the mountain's Guardian, a fairy woman. Let 
him then try to interpret the mysticism of an ancient Irish 


myth, in order to understand why men have been told that 
in the plain beneath this magic mountain of Ireland mighty 
warfare was once waged on account of a Bull, by the hosts 
of Queen Meave against those of Cuchulainn the hero of 
Ulster. Let him be lost in the mists on the top of Ben 
Bulbin. Let him know the haunts of fairy kings and queens 
in Roscommon. Let him follow in the footsteps of Patrick 
and Bridgit and Columba. When there are dark days and 
stormy nights, let him sit beside a blazing fire of fragrant 
peat in a peasant's straw-thatched cottage listening to tales 
of Ireland's golden age — tales of gods, of heroes, of ghosts, 
and of fairy-folk. If he will do these things, he will know 
Ireland, and why its people believe in fairies. 

As yet, little has been said concerning the effects of clouds, 
of natural scenery, of weird and sudden transformations in 
earth and sky and air, which play their part in shaping the 
complete Fairy-Faith of the Irish ; but what we are about 
to say concerning Scotland will suggest the same things for 
Ireland, because the nature of the landscape and the atmo- 
spheric changes are much the same in the two countries, 
both inland and on their rock-bound and storm-swept 

In Scotland 

In the moorlands between Trossachs and Aberfoyle, 
a region made famous by Scott's Rob Roy, I have seen 
atmospheric changes so sudden and so contrasted as to 
appear marvellous. What shifting of vapours and clouds, 
what flashes of bright sun-gleams, then twilight at midday ! 
Across the landscape, shadows of black dense fog-banks 
rush like shadows of flocks of great birds which darken all 
the earth. Palpitating fog-banks wrap themselves around 
the mountain-tops and then come down like living things to 
move across the valleys, sometimes only a few yards above 
the traveller's head. And in that country live terrible water- 
kelpies. When black clouds discharge their watery burden 
it is in wind-driven vertical water-sheets through which the 
world appears as through an ice-filmed window-pane. Per- 
haps in a single day there may be the bluest of heavens and 

B 2 


the clearest air, the densest clouds and the darkest shadows, 
the calm of the morning and the wind of the tempest. At 
night in Aberfoyle after such a day, I witnessed a clear 
sunset and a fair evening sky ; in the morning when I arose, 
the lowlands along the river were inundated and a thousand 
cascades, large and small, were leaping down the mountain- 
highlands, and rain was falling in heavy masses. Within 
an hour afterwards, as I travelled on towards Stirling, the 
rain and wind ceased, and there settled down over all 
the land cloud-masses so inky-black that they seemed like the 
fancies of some horrible dream. Then like massed armies 
they began to move to their mountain-strongholds, and 
stood there ; while from the east came perfect weather 
and a flood of brilliant sunshine. 

And in the Highlands from Stirling to Inverness what 
magic, what changing colours and shadows there were on 
the age-worn treeless hills, and in the valleys with their 
clear, pure streams receiving tribute from unnumbered little 
rills and springs, some dropping water drop by drop as 
though it were fairy-distilled ; and everywhere the heather 
giving to the mountain-landscape a hue of rich purplish- 
brown, and to the air an odour of aromatic fragrance. 

On to the north-west beyond Inverness there is the same 
kind of a treeless highland country ; and then after a few 
hours of travel one looks out across the water from Kyle 
and beholds Skye, where Cuchulainn is by some believed to 
have passed his young manhood learning feats of arms from 
fairy women, — Skye, dark, mountainous, majestic, with its 
waterfalls turning to white spray as they tumble from cliff 
to cliff into the sound, from out the clouds that hide their 
mountain-summit sources. 

In the Outer Hebrides, as in the Aranmore Islands off 
West Ireland, influences are at work on the Celtic imagina- 
tion quite different from those in Skye and its neighbouring 
islands. Mountainous billows which have travelled from 
afar out of the mysterious watery waste find their first 
impediment on the west of these isolated Hebridean isles, 
and they fling themselves like mad things in full fury 


against the wild rocky islets fringing the coast. White spray 
flashes in unearthly forms over the highest cliff, and the un- 
restrained hurricane whirls it far inland. Ocean's eternally 
murmuring sounds set up a responsive vibration in the soul 
of the peasant, as he in solitude drives home his flocks 
amid the weird gloaming at the end of a December day ; 
and, later, when he sits brooding in his humble cottage at 
night, in the fitful flickering of a peat fire, he has a mystic 
consciousness that deep down in his being there is a more 
divine music compared with which that of external nature 
is but a symbol and an echo ; and, as he stirs the glowing 
peat- embers, phantoms from an irretrievable past seem to 
be sitting with him on the edge of the half-circle of dying 
light. Maybe there are skin-clad huntsmen of the sea and 
land, with spears and knives of bone and flint and shaggy 
sleeping dogs, or fearless sea-rovers resting wearily on shields 
of brilliant bronze, or maybe Celtic warriors fierce and 
bold ; and then he understands that his past and his present 
are one. 

Commonly there is the thickest day-darkness when the 
driving storms come in from the Atlantic, or when dense 
fog covers sea and land ; and, again, there are melancholy 
sea-winds moaning across from shore to shore, bending the 
bushes of the purple heather. At other times there is a 
sparkle of the brightest sunshine on the ocean waves, a fierce- 
ness foreign to the more peaceful Highlands ; and then 
again a dead silence prevails at sunrise and at sunset if one 
be on the mountains, or, if on the shore, no sound is heard 
save the rhythmical beat of the waves, and now and then 
the hoarse cry of a sea-bird. All these contrasted conditions 
may be seen in one day, or each may endure for a day ; and 
the dark days last nearly all the winter. And then it is, 
during the long winter, that the crofters and fisher-folk con- 
gregate night after night in a different neighbour's house 
to tell about fairies and ghosts, and to repeat all those old 
legends so dear to the heart of the Celt. Perhaps every one 
present has heard the same story or legend a hundred times, 
yet it is always listened to and told as though it were the 


latest bulletin of some great world-stirring event. Over 
those little islands, so far away to the north, out on the edge 
of the world, in winter-time darkness settles down at four 
o'clock or even earlier ; and the islanders hurry through 
with their dinner of fish and oat-bread so as not to miss 
hearing the first story. When the company has gathered from 
far and near, pipes are re-filled and lit and the peat is heaped 
up, for the story-telling is not likely to end before midnight. 
* The house is roomy and clean, if homely, with its bright 
peat fire in the middle of the floor. There are many present 
— men and women, boys and girls. All the women are 
seated, and most of the men. Girls are crouched between 
the knees of fathers or brothers or friends, while boys are 
perched wherever — boy-like — they can climb. The house- 
man is twisting twigs of heather into ropes to hold 
down thatch, a neighbour crofter is twining quicken root 
into cords to tie cows, while another is plaiting bent grass 
into baskets to hold meal. The housewife is spinning, 
a daughter is carding, another daughter is teazing, while 
a third daughter, supposed to be working, is away in 
the background conversing in low whispers with the son 
of a neighbouring crofter. Neighbour wives and neigh- 
bour daughters are knitting, sewing, or embroidering.*^ 
Then when the bad weather for fishing has been fully dis- 
cussed by the men, and the latest gossip by the women, 
and the foolish talk of the youths and maidens in the corners 
is finished, the one who occupies the chair of honour in the 
midst of the ceilidh ^ looks around to be sure that everybody 
is comfortable and ready ; and, as his first story begins, even 
the babes by instinct cease their noise and crying, and young 
and old bend forward eagerly to hear every word. It does 

' Alexander Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica (Edinburgh, 1900), i, p. xix. 

* The ceilidh of the Western Hebrides corresponds to the veillee of Lower 
Brittany (see pp. 221 ff.), and to similar story-telling festivals which 
formerly flourished among all the Celtic peoples. * The ceilidh is a literary 
entertainment where stories and tales, poems, and ballads, are rehearsed 
and recited, and songs are sung, conundrums are put, proverbs are quoted* 
and many other literary matters are related and discussed.' — Alexander 
Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica, i, p. xviii. 


not matter if some of the boys and girls do topple over 

asleep, or even some of the older folk as the hour gets late ; 

the tales meet no interruption in their even, unbroken flow. 

And here we have the most Celtic and the most natural 

environments which the Fairy- Faith enjoys in Scotland. 

There are still the Southern Highlands in the country 

around Oban, and the islands near them ; and of all these 

isles none is so picturesque in history as the one Columba 

loved so well. Though lona enjoys less of the wildness of 

the Hebrides furthest west, it has their storm- winds and fogs 

and dark days, and their strangeness of isolation. On it, as 

Adamnan tells us, the holy man fought with black demons 

who came to invade his monastery, and saw angelic hosts ; 

and when the angels took his soul at midnight in that little 

chapel by the sea-shore there was a mystic light which 

illuminated all the altar like the brightest sunshine. But 

nowadays, where the saint saw demons and angels the 

Islanders see ghosts and * good people ', and when one of 

these islanders is taken in death it is not by angels — it is 

by fairies. 

In the Isle of Man 

In the midst of the Irish Sea, almost equidistant from 
Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, and concentrating in itself 
the psychical and magnetic influences from these three Celtic 
lands, and from Celto-Saxon England too, lies the beautiful 
kingdom of the great Tuatha De Danann god, Manannan 
Mac Lir, or, as his loyal Manx subjects prefer to call him, 
Mannanan-Beg-Mac-y-Leir. In no other land of the Celt 
does Nature show so many moods and contrasts, such perfect 
repose at one time and at another time the mightiness of 
its unloosed powers, when the baffled sea throws itself angrily 
against a high rock-bound coast, as wild and almost as weather- 
worn as the western coasts of Ireland and the Hebrides. 

But it is Nature's calmer moods which have greater effect 
upon the Manx people : on the summit of his ancient strong- 
hold, South Barrule Mountain, the god Manannan yet dwells 
invisible to mortal eyes, and whenever on a warm day he 
throws off his magic mist-blanket with which he is wont to 


cover the whole island, the golden gorse or purple heather 
blossoms become musical with the hum of bees, and sway 
gently on breezes made balmy by the tropical warmth of an 
ocean stream flowing from the far distant Mexican shores 
of a New World. Then in many a moist and sweet-smelling 
glen, pure and verdant, land-birds in rejoicing bands add to 
the harmony of sound, as they gather on the newly-ploughed 
field or dip themselves in the clear water of the tinkling 
brook ; and from the cliffs and rocky islets on the coast 
comes the echo of the multitudinous chorus of sea-birds. 
At sunset, on such a day, as evening calmness settles down, 
weird mountain shadows begin to move across the dimly- 
lighted glens ; and when darkness has fallen, there is a mystic 
stillness, broken only by the ceaseless throbbing of the sea- 
waves, the flow of brooks, and the voices of the night. 

In the moorland solitudes, even by day, there sometimes 
broods a deeper silence, which is yet more potent and full 
of meaning for the peasant, as under its spell he beholds the 
peaceful vision, happy and sunlit, of sea and land, of gentle 
mountains falling away in land-waves into well-tilled plains 
and fertile valleys ; and he comes to feel instinctively the old 
Druidic Fires relit within his heart, and perhaps unconsciously 
he worships there in Nature's Temple. The natural beauty 
without awakens the divine beauty within, and for a second 
of time he, out of his subconsciousness, is conscious that in 
Nature there are beings and inaudible voices which have no 
existence for the flippant pleasure-seeking crowds who come 
and go. To the multitude, his ancestral beliefs are foolish- 
ness, his fairies but the creatures of a fervid Celtic imagina- 
tion which readily responds to unusual phenomena and 
environments. They wiU not believe with him that all beauty 
and harmony in the world are but symbolic, and that behind 
these stand unseen sustaining forces and powers which are 
conscious and eternal ; and though by instinct they willingly 
personify Nature they do not know the secret of why they 
do so : for them the outer is reality, the inner non-existent. 

From the Age of Stone to the civilized era of to-day, the 
Isle of Man has been, in succession, the home of every knoi"^^ 



race and people who have flourished in Western Europe ; 
and though subject, in turn, to the Irish Gael and to the 
Welsh Brython, to Northmen and to Danes, to Scots and 
to English, and the scene of sweeping transformations in 
religion, as pagan cults succeeded one another, to give way 
to the teaching of St. Patrick and his disciples St. German 
and St. Maughold, and this finally to the Protestant form of 
Christianity, the island alone of Celtic lands has been 
strangely empowered to maintain in almost primitive purity 
its ancient constitution and freedom, and though geographic- 
ally at the very centre of the United Kingdom, is not a part 
of it. The archaeologist may still read in mysterious symbols 
of stone and earth, as they lie strewn over the island's sur- 
face, the history of this age-long panoramic procession of 
human evolution ; while through these same symbols the 
Manx seer reads a deeper meaning ; and sometimes in the 
superhuman realm of radiant light, to which since long ago 
they have oft come and oft returned, he meets face to face 
the gods and heroes whose early tombs stand solitary on 
the wind-swept mountain-top and moorland, or hidden away 
in the embrace of wild flowers and verdure amid valleys ; 
and in the darker mid-world he sees innumerable ghosts of 
many of these races which have perished. 

In Wales 

Less can be said of Wades than of Ireland, or of Scotland 
as a whole. It has, it is true, its own peculiar psychic atmo- 
sphere, different, no doubt, because its people are Brythonic 
Celts rather than Gaelic Celts. But Wales, with conditions 
more modernized than is the case in Ireland or in the Western 
Hebrides of Scotland, does not now exhibit in a vigorous or 
flourishing state those Celtic influences which, when they 
were active, did so much to create the precious Romances of 
Arthur and his Brotherhood, and to lay the foundations for 
the Welsh belief in the Tylwyth Teg, a fairy race still sur- 
viving in a few favoured localities. 
^ Wales, like all Celtic countries, is a land of long sea-coasts, 
, ^^i^hough there seems to be, save in the mountains of the north, 


less of mist and darkness and cloud effects than in Ireland 
and Scotland. In the south, perhaps the most curious in- 
fluences are to be felt at St. David's Head, and in St. David's 
itself — once the goal for thousands of pilgrims from many 
countries of mediaeval Europe, and, probably, in pagan 
times the seat of an oracle. And a place of like character 
is the peninsula of Gower, south of Swansea. Caerphilly 
Castle, where the Green Lady reigns now amid its ruined 
acres, is a strange place ; and so is the hill near Carmarthen, 
where Merlin is asleep in a cave with the fairy-woman 
Vivian. But in none of these places to-day is there a strong 
living faith in fairies as there is, for example, in West Ireland. 
The one region where I found a real Celtic atmosphere — and 
it is a region where everybody speaks Welsh — is a moun- 
tainous country rarely visited by travellers, save archaeo- 
logists, a few miles from Newport; and its centre is the 
Pentre Evan Cromlech, the finest cromlech in Wales if not 
in Britain. By this prehistoric monument and in the 
country round the old Nevern Church, three miles away, 
there is an active belief in the * fair-folk ', in ghosts, in 
death-warnings, in death-candles and phantom-funerals, and 
in witchcraft and black magic. Thence on to Newcastle- 
Emlyn and its valley, where many of the Mabinogion stories 
took form, or at least from where they drew rich material in 
the way of folk-lore,^ are environments purely Welsh and as 
yet little disturbed by the commercial materialism of the age. 
There remain now to be mentioned three other places 
in Wales to me very impressive psychically. These are : 
ancient Harlech, so famous in recorded Welsh fairy-romance 
— Harlech with its strange stone-circles, and old castle from 
which the Snowdon Range is seen to loom majestically and 
clear, and with its sun-kissed bay ; Mount Snowdon, with 
its memories of Arthur and Welsh heroes ; and sacred 
Anglesey or Mona, strewn with tumuli, and dolmens, and 
pillar-stones — Mona, where the Druids made their last stand 

* I am indebted for this information to the late Mr. Da vies, the com- 
petent scholar and antiquarian of Newcastle-Emlyn, where for many years 
he has been vicar. 


against the Roman eagles — and its little island called Holy- 
head, facing Ireland. 

However, when all is said, modern Wales is poorer in its 
fairy atmosphere than modern Ireland or modern Brittany. 
Certainly there is a good deal of this fairy atmosphere yet, 
though it has become less vital than the similar fairy atmo- 
sphere in the great centres of Erin and Armorica. But the 
purely social environment under which the Fairy-Faith of 
Wales survives is a potent force which promises to preserve 
underneath the surface of Welsh national life, where the 
commercialism of the age has compelled it to retire in a state 
of temporary latency, the ancestral idealism of the ancient 
Brythonic race. In Wales, as in Lower Brittany and in 
parts of Ireland and the Hebrides, one may still hear in 
common daily use a language which has been continuously 
spoken since unknown centuries before the rise of the 
Roman empire. And the strong hold which the Druidic 
Eisteddfod (an annual national congress of bards and literati) 
continues to have upon the Welsh people, in spite of their 
commercialism, is, again, a sign that their hearts remain 
uncorrupted, that when the more favourable hour strikes 
they will sweep aside the deadening influences which now 
hold them in spiritual bondage, and become, as they were 
in the past, true children of Arthur. 

In Cornwall 
. Strikingly like Brittany in physical aspects. Southern and 
Western Cornwall is a land of the sea, of rolling plains and 
moorlands rather than of high hills and mountains, a land 
of golden-yellow furze-bloom, where noisy crowds of black 
crows and white sea-gulls mingle together over the freshly- 
turned or new-sown fields, and where in the spring-time the 
call of the cuckoo is heard with the song of the skylark. 
Like the Isle of Man, from the earliest ages Cornwall has 
been a meeting-place and a battle-ground for contending 
races. The primitive dark Iberian peoples gave way before 
Aryan-Celtic invaders, and these to Roman and then to 
Germanic invaders. 


Nature has been kind to the whole of Cornwall, but chiefly 
upon the peninsula whose ancient capital is Penzance (which 
possibly means * the Holy Headland '), and upon the land 
immediately eastward and northward of it, she has bestowed 
her rarest gifts. Holding this territory embosomed in the 
pure waters of Ocean, and breathing over it the pure air of 
the Atlantic in spring and in summer calm, when the warm 
vapours from the Gulf Stream sweep over it freely, and 
make it a land of flowers and of singing-birds. Nature pre- 
serves eternally its beauty and its sanctity. There are there 
ruined British villages whose builders are long forgotten, 
strange prehistoric circular sun-temples like fortresses crown- 
ing the hill-tops, mysterious underground passage-ways, and 
crosses probably pre-Christian. Everywhere are the records 
of the mighty past of this thrice-holy Druid land of sunset. 
There are weird legends of the lost kingdom of Fair Lyonesse, 
which seers sometimes see beneath the clear salt waves, with 
all its ancient towns and flowery fields ; legends of Phoeni- 
cians and Oriental merchants who came for tin ; legends 
of gods and of giants, of pixies and of fairies, of King Arthur 
in his castle at Tintagel, of angels and of saints, of witches 
and of wizards. 

On Dinsul, ' Hill dedicated to the Sun,' pagan priests and 
priestesses kept kindled the Eternal Fire, and daily watched 
eastward for the rising of the God of Light and Life, to greet 
his coming with paeans of thanksgiving and praise. Then 
after the sixth century the new religion had come proclaim- 
ing a more mystic Light of the World in the Son of God, 
and to the pious half-pagan monks who succeeded the 
Druids the Archangel St. Michael appeared in vision on the 
Sacred Mount.^ And before St. Augustine came to Britain 
the Celts of Cornwall had already combined in their own 
mystical way the spiritual message of primitive Christianity 
with the pure nature- worship of their ancestors ; and their 

* In the Gnosis, St. Michael symboUzes the sun, and thus very appro- 
priately at St. Michael's Mount, Cornwall, at Mont St. Michel, Carnac, and 
also at Mont St. Michel on the coast of Normandy, replaced the Great God 
of Light and Life, held in supreme honour among the ancient Celts. 


land was then, as it most likely had been in pagan days, 
a centre of pilgrimages for their Celtic kinsmen from Ireland, 
from Wales, from England, and from Brittany. When in 
later times new theological doctrines were superimposed on 
this mysticism of Celtic Christianity, the Sacred Fires were 
buried in ashes, and the Light and Beauty of the pagan 
world obscured with sackcloth. 

But there in that most southern and western corner of 
the Isle of Britain, the Sacred Fires themselves still burn on 
the divine hill-tops, though smothered in the hearts of its 
children. The Cornishman's vision is no longer clear. He 
looks upon cromlech and dolmen, upon ancient caves of 
initiation, and upon the graves of his prehistoric ancestors, 
and vaguely feels, but does not know, why his land is so holy, 
is so permeated by an indefinable magic ; for he has lost his 
ancestral mystic touch with the unseen — he is ' educated ' 
^and ' civilized '. The hand of the conqueror has fallen more 
heavily upon the people of Cornwall than upon any other 
Celtic people, and now for a time, but let us hope happily 
only for this dark period of transition, they sleep — until 
Arthur comes to break the spell and set them free. 

In Brittany 

As was pointed out at the beginning of this chapter, 
Ireland and Brittany are to be regarded as the two poles of 
the modern Celtic world, but it is believed by Celtic mystics 
that they are much more than this, that they are two of 
its psychic centres, with Tara and Carnac as two respective 
points of focus from which the Celtic influence of each 
country radiates.^ With such a psychical point of view, it 
makes no difference at all whether one scholar argues Carnac 
to be Celtic and another pre-Celtic, for if pre-Celtic, as it 
most likely is, it has certainly been bequeathed to the people 
who were and are Celtic, and its influence has been an un- 
broken thing from times altogether beyond the horizon of 

^ In this connexion we may think of the North and South Magnetic Poles 
of the earth as centres of definite yet invisible forces which can be detected, 
and to some extent measured scientifically. 


history. According to this theory (and in following it we 
are merely trying to put on record unique material trans- 
mitted to us by the most learned of contemporary Celtic 
mystics and seers) there seem to be certain favoured places 
on the earth where its magnetic and even more subtle forces 
are most powerful and most easily felt by persons suscep- 
tible to such things ; and Carnac appears to be one of the 
greatest of such places in Europe, and for this reason, as 
has been thought, was probably selected by its ancient 
priest-builders as the great centre for religious practices, for 
the celebration of pagan mysteries, for tribal assemblies, 
for astronomical observations, and very likely for establishing 
schools in which to educate neophytes for the priesthood. 
Tara, with its tributary Boyne valley, is a similar place in 
Ireland, so selected and so used, as, in our study of the cult 
of fairies and the cult of the dead, manuscript evidence will 
later indicate. And thus to such psychical and magnetic, or, 
according perhaps to others, religious or traditional in- 
fluences as focus themselves at Tara and Carnac, though in 
other parts of the two countries as well, may be due in 
a great, even in an essential measure, the vigorous and ever- 
living Fairy-Faith of Ireland, and the innate and ever-con- 
scious belief of the Breton people in the Legend of the Dead 
and in a world invisible. For fairies and souls of the dead, 
though, strictly speaking, not confused, are believed to be 
beings of the subjective world existing to-day, and influ- 
encing mortals, as they have always existed and influenced 
them according to ancient and modern traditions, and as 
they appear now in the eyes even of science through the 
work of a few pioneer scientists in psychical research. And 
it seems probable that subjective beings of this kind, grant- 
ing their existence, were made use of by the ancient Druids, 
and even by Patrick when the old and new religions 
met to do battle on the Hill of Tara. The control of 
Tara, as a psychical centre, meant the psychical control 
of all Ireland. To-day on the Hill of Tara the statue 
of St. Patrick dwarfs the Liath Stone beside it ; at Carnac 
the Christian Cross overshadows dolmens and menhirs. 


A learned priest of the Roman Church told me, when 
I met him in Galway, that in his opinion those places in 
Ireland where ancient sacrifices were performed to pagan or 
Druid gods are still, unless they have been regularly exor- 
cized, under the control of demons (daemons) . And what 
the Druids were at Tara and throughout Erin and most 
probably at Carnac as well, the priests were in Egypt, and 
the pythonesses in Greece. That is to say, Druids, Egyptian 
priests, priestesses in charge of Greek oracles, are said to 
have foretold the future, interpreted omens, worked all 
miracles and wonders of magic by the aid of daemons, who 
were regarded as an order of invisible beings, intermediary 
between gods and men, and as sometimes including the 
shades from Hades. 

I should say as before, if he who knowing Ireland, the 
Land of Faerie, would know in the same manner Brittany, 
the Land of the Dead, let him silently and alone walk many 
times — in sun, in wind, in storm, in thick mist — through 
the long, broad avenues of stone of the Alignements at Carnac. 
Let him watch from among them the course of the sun from 
east to west. Let him stand on St. Michael's Mount on the 
day of the winter solstice, or on the day of the summer 
solstice. Let him enter the silence of its ancient underground 
chamber, so dark and so mysterious. Let him sit for hours 
musing amid cromlechs and dolmens, and beside menhirs, 
and at holy wells. Let him marvel at the mightiest of 
menhirs now broken and prostrate at Locmariaquer, and 
then let him ponder over the subterranean places near it. 
Let him try to read the symbolic inscriptions on the rocks 
in Gavrinis. Let him stand on the tie de Sein at sunrise 
and at sunset. Let him penetrate the solitudes of the Forest 
of Broceliande, and walk through the Val-Sans-Retour (Vale- 
Without-Return) . And then let him wander in footpaths 
with the Breton peasant through fields where good dames 
sit on the sunny side of a bush or wall, knitting stockings, 
where there are long hedges of furze, golden-yellow with 
bloom — even in January — and listen to stories , about 
corrigans, and about the dead who mingle here with the 


living. Let him enter the peasant's cottage when there is 
fog over the land and the sea-winds are blowing across the 
shifting sand-dunes, and hear what he can tell him. Let 
him, even as he enjoys the picturesque customs and dress of 
the Breton folk and looks on at their joyous ronde (perhaps 
the relic of a long-forgotten sun-dance), observe the depth 
of their nature, their almost ever-present sense of the serious- 
ness of human life and effort, their beautiful characters as 
their mystic land has shaped them without the artificiality 
of books and schools, their dreaminess as they look out 
across the ocean, their often perfect physique and fine 
profiles and rosy cheeks, and yet withal their brooding 
innate melancholy. And let him know that there is with 
them always an overshadowing consciousness of an invisible 
world, not in some distant realm of space, but here and now, 
blending itself with this world; its inhabitants, their dead 
ancestors and friends, mingling with them daily, and await- 
ing the hour when the A nkou (a King of the Dead) shall call 
each to join their invisible company. 



' During all these centuries the Celt has kept in his heart some affinity 
with the mighty beings ruling in the Unseen, once so evident to the heroic 
races who preceded him. His legends and faery tales have connected his 
soul with the inner lives of air and water and earth, and they in turn have 
kept his heart sweet with hidden influence.' — A. E. 

Method of presentation — The logical verdict — Trustworthiness of legends 
— The Fairy-Faith held by the highly educated Celt as well as by the 
Celtic peasant — The evidence is complete and adequate — Its analysis — 
The Fairy-Tribes dealt with — Witnesses and their testimony : from 
Ireland, with introduction by Dr. Douglas Hyde ; from Scotland, 
with introduction by Dr. Alexander Carmichael ; from the Isle of 
Man, with introduction by Miss Sophia Morrison ; from Wales, with 
introduction by the Right Hon. Sir John Rhys ; from Cornwall, with 
introduction by Mr. Henry Jenner; and from Brittany, with intro- 
duction by Professor Anatole Le Braz. 


Various possible plans have presented themselves for 
setting forth the living Fairy-Faith as I have found it during 
my travels in the six Celtic countries among the people 
who hold it. To take a bit here and a bit there from a mis- 
cellaneous group of psychological experiences, fairy legends 
and stories which are linked together almost inseparably in 
the mind of the one who tells them, does not seem at all 
satisfactory, nor even just, in trying to arrive at a correct 
residt. Classification under various headings, such, for 
example, as Fairy Abductions, Changelings, or Appearances 
of Fairies, seems equally unsatisfactory ; for as soon as the 
details of folk-lore such as I am presenting are isolated from 
one another — even though brought together in related 
groups — they must be rudely torn out of their true and 
natural environment, and divorced from the psychological 



atmosphere amidst which they were first presented by the 
narrator. The same objection applies to any plan of divid- 
ing the evidence into (i) that which is purely legendary ; 
(2) that which is second-hand or third-hand evidence from 
people who claim to have seen fairies, or to have been in 
Fairyland or under fairy influences ; and (3) that which is 
first-hand evidence from actual percipients : these three 
classes of evidence are so self-evident that every reader will 
be able to distinguish each class for himself as it occurs, 
and a mechanical classification by us is unnecessary. So no 
plan seems so good as the plan I have adopted of permitting 
all witnesses to give their own testimony in their own way 
and in its native setting, and then of classifying and weigh- 
ing such testimony according to the methods of comparative 
religion and the anthropological sciences. 

In most cases, as examination will show, the evidence is 
so clear that little or no comment is necessary. Most of the 
evidence also points so much in one direction that the 
only verdict which seems reasonable is that the Fairy-Faith 
belongs to a doctrine of souls ; that is to say, that Fairyland 
is a state or condition, realm or place, very much like, if 
not the same as, that wherein civilized and uncivilized men 
alike place the souls of the dead, in company with other 
invisible beings such as gods, daemons, and all sorts of good 
and bad spirits. Not only do both educated and uneducated 
Celtic seers so conceive Fairyland, but they go much further, 
and say that Fairyland actually exists as an invisible world 
within which the visible world is immersed like an island in 
an unexplored ocean, and that it is peopled by more species 
of living beings than this world, because incomparably more 
vast and varied in its possibilities. 

We should be prepared in hearing the evidence to meet 
with some contradictions and a good deal of confusion, for 
many of the people who believe in such a strange world as 
we have just described, and who think they sometimes have 
entered it or have seen some of its inhabitants, have often 
had no training at all in schools or colleges. But when we 
hear legendary tales which have never been recorded save 


in the minds of unnumbered generations of men, we ought 
not on that account to undervalue them ; for often they 
are better authorities and more trustworthy than many an 
ancient and carefully inscribed manuscript in the British 
Museum ; and they are probably far older than the oldest 
book in the world. Let us, then, for a time, forget that 
there are such things as libraries and universities, and betake 
ourselves to the Celtic peasant for instruction, living close to 
nature as he lives, and thinking the things which he thinks. 
' But the peasant will not be our only teacher, for we shall 
also hear much of first importance from city folk of the 
highest intellectual training. It has become, perhaps always 
has been in modern times, a widespread opinion, even among 
some scholars, that the belief in fairies is the property solely 
of simple, uneducated country-folk, and that people who 
have had ' a touch of education and a little common sense 
knocked into their heads ', to use the ordinary language, 
' wouldn't be caught believing in such nonsense.' This same 
class of critics used to make similar remarks about people 
who said there were ghosts, until the truth of another 
* stupid superstition * was discovered by psychical research. 
So in this chapter we hope to correct this erroneous opinion 
about the Fairy-Faith, an opinion chiefly entertained by 
scholars and others who know not the first real fact about 
fairies, because they have never lived amongst the people 
who believe in fairies, but derive all their information from 
books and hearsay. In due order the proper sort of wit- 
nesses will substantiate this position, but before coming to 
their testimony we may now say that there are men and 
women in Dublin, in other parts of Ireland, in Scotland, in 
the Isle of Man, and in Brythonic lands too, whom all the 
world knows as educated leaders in their respective fields of 
activity, who not only declare their belief that fairies were, 
but that fairies are ; and some of these men and women say 
that they have the power to see fairies as real spiritual 

In the evidence about to be presented there has been no 
selecting in favour of any one theory ; it is presented as 

c 2 


discovered. The only liberty taken with some of the evidence 
has been to put it into better grammatical form, and some- 
times to recast an ambiguous statement when I, as collector, 
had in my own mind no doubt as to its meaning. Transla- 
tions have been made as literal as possible ; though some- 
times it has been found better to offer the meaning rather 
than what in English would be an obscure colloquialism or 
idiomatic expression. The method pursued in seeking the 
evidence has been to penetrate as deeply and in as natural 
a way as possible the thoughts of the people who believe in 
fairies and like beings, by living among them and observing 
their customs and ways of thought, and recording what 
seemed relevant to the subject under investigation — chance 
expressions, and legends told under various ordinary con- 
ditions — rather than to collect long legends or literary fairy- 
stories. For these last the reader is referred to the many 
excellent works on Celtic folk-lore. We have sought to 
bring together, as perhaps has not been done before, the 
philosophy of the belief in fairies, rather than the mere 
fairy-lore itself, though the two cannot be separated. In 
giving the evidence concerning fairies, we sometimes give 
evidence which, though akin to it and thus worthy of record, 
is not strictly fairy-lore. All that we have omitted from 
the materials in the form first taken down are stories and 
accounts of things not sufficiently related to the world 
of Faerie to be of value here. 

In no case has testimony been admitted from a person 
who was known to be unreliable, nor even from a person who 
was thought to be unreliable. Accordingly, the evidence we 
are to examine ought to be considered good evidence so 
far as it goes ; and since it represents almost all known 
elements of the Fairy-Faith and contains almost all the 
essential elements upon which the advocates of the Natura- 
listic Theory, of the Pygmy Theory, of the Druid Theory, 
of the Mythological Theory, as well as of our own Psycho- 
logical Theory, must base their arguments, we consider it 
very adequate evidence. Nearly every witness is a Celt 
who has been made acquainted with the belief in fairies 


through direct contact with people who believe in them, or 
through having heard fairy-traditions among his own kindred, 
or through personal psychological experiences. And it is 
exceedingly fortunate for us that an unusually large pro- 
portion of these Celtic witnesses are actual percipients and 
natural seers, because the eliminations from the Fairy-Faith 
to be brought about in chapter iii by means of an anthropo- 
logical analysis of evidence will be so extensive that, scien- 
tifically and strictly speaking, there will remain as a residual 
or unknown quantity, upon which our final conclusion must 
depend, solely the testimony of reliable seer-witnesses. That 
is to say, no method of anthropological dissection of the 
evidence can force aside consideration of the ultimate truth 
which may or may not reside in the testimony of sane and 
thoroughly reliable seer-witnesses. 

Old and young, educated and uneducated, peasant and 
city-bred, testify to the actual existence of the Celtic Fairy- 
Faith ; and the evidence from Roman Catholics stands 
beside that from Protestants, the evidence of priests sup- 
ports that of scholars and scientists, peasant seers have 
testified to the same kind of visions as highly educated 
seers ; and what poets have said agrees with what is told 
by business men, engineers, and lawyers. But the best of 
witnesses, like ourselves, are only human, and subject to 
the shortcomings of the ordinary man, and therefore no 
claim can be made in any case to infallibility of evidence : 
all the world over men interpret visions pragmatically and 
sociologically, or hold beliefs in accord with their own per- 
sonal experiences; and are for ever unconsciously immersed 
in a sea of psychological influences which sometimes may be 
explainable through the methods of sociological inquiry, 
sometimes may be supernormal in origin and nature, and 
hence to be explained most adequately, if at all, through 
psychical research. Our study is a study of human nature 
itself, and, moreover, often of human nature in its most 
subtle aspects, which are called psychical ; and the most 
difficult problem of all is for human nature to interpret 
and understand its own ultimate essence and psychological 


instincts. Our whole aim is to discover what reasonableness 
may or may not stand behind a belief so vast, so ancient, 
so common (contrary to popular non-Celtic opinion) to all- 
classes of Celts, and so fundamental a shaping force in 
European history, religion, and social institutions. 

When we state our conviction that the Fairy-Faith is* 
common to all classes of Celts, we do not state that it 
is common to all Celts. The materialization of the age has 
affected the Fairy-Faith as it has affected all religious beliefs 
the world over. This has been pointed out by Dr. Hyde, 
by Dr. Carmichael, and by Mr. Jenner in their respective 
introductions for Ireland, Scotland, and Cornwall. Never- 
theless, the Fairy-Faith as the folk-religion of the Celtic 
peoples is still able to count its adherents by hundreds of 
thousands. Even in many cases where Christian theology 
has been partially or wholly discarded by educated Celts, 
in the country or in the city, as being to them in too many 
details out of harmony with accepted scientific truths, the- 
belief in fairies has been jealously retained, and will, so it 
would seem, be retained in the future. 

We are now prepared to hear about the Daoine Maithe,- 
the * Good People ', as the Irish call their Sidhe race ; about 
the ' People of Peace ', the ' Still-Folk ' or the ' Silent 
Moving Folk ', as the Scotch call their SHh who live in green 
knolls and in the mountain fastnesses of the Highlands ; 
about various Manx fairies ; about the Tylwyth Teg, the 
' Fair-Family ' or ' Fair-Folk ', as the Welsh people call 
their fairies ; about Cornish Pixies ; and about Fees (fairies) , 
Corrigans, and the Phantoms of the Dead in Brittany. And 
along with these, for they are very much akin, let us hear 
about ghosts — sometimes about ghosts who discover hidden 
treasure, as in our story of the Golden Image — about goblins, 
about various sorts of death-warnings generally coming 
from apparitions of the dead, or from banshees, about death- 
candles and phantom-funerals, about leprechauns, about 
hosts of the air, and all kinds of elementals and spirits — 
in short, about all the orders of beings who mingle together 
in that invisible realm called Fairyland. 



Introduction by Douglas Hyde, LL.D., D. Litt., M.R.I.A. 
{An Craoihhin Aoihhinn), President of the Gaelic League; 
author of A Literary History of Ireland, &c. 

Whatever may be thought of the conclusions drawn by 
Mr. Wentz from his explorations into the Irish spirit-world, 
there can be no doubt as to the accuracy of the data from 
which he draws them. I have myself been for nearly a 
quarter of a century collecting, off and on, the folk-lore of 
Western Ireland, not indeed in the shape in which Mr. Wentz 
has collected it, but rather with an eye (partly for linguistic 
and literary purposes) to its songs, sayings, ballads, proverbs, 
and sgealta, which last are generally the equivalent of the 
German Marchen, but sometimes have a touch of the saga 
nature about them. In making a collection of these things 
I have naturally come across a very large amount of folk- 
belief conversationally expressed, with regard to the ' good 
people ' and other supernatural manifestations, so that 
I can bear witness to the fidelity with which Mr. Wentz 
has done his work on Irish soil, for to a great number of 
the beliefs which he records I have myself heard parallels, 
sometimes I have heard near variants of the stories, some- 
times the identical stories. So we may, I think, unhesitat- 
ingly accept his subject-matter, whatever, as I said, be the 
conclusions we may deduce from them. 

The folk-tale (sean-sgeal) or Marchen, which I have spent 
so much time in collecting, must not be confounded with 
the folk-belief which forms the basis of Mr. Wentz's studies. 
The sgeal or story is something much more intricate, com- 
plicated, and thought-out than the belief. One can quite 
easily distinguish between the two. One (the belief) is short, 
conversational, chiefly relating to real people, and contains 
no great sequence of incidents, while the other (the folk-tale) 
is long, complicated, more or less conventional, and above 
aU has its interest grouped around a single central figure, 
that of the hero or heroine. I may make this plainer by an 
example. Let us go into a cottage on the mountain-side, as 


Mr. Wentz and I have done so often, and ask the old man 
of the house if he ever heard of such things as fairies, and 
he will tell you that * there is fairies in it surely. Didn't 
his own father see the " forth " ^ beyond full of them, and he 
passing by of a moonlight night and a little piper among ' 
them, and he playing music that mortal man never heard 
the like ? ' or he'll tell you that * he himself wouldn't say 
agin fairies for it 's often he heard their music at the old bush 
behind the house '. Ask what the fairies are like, and he 
will tell you — well, pretty much what Mr. Wentz tells us. 
From this and the like accounts we form our ideas of fairies 
and fairy music, of ghosts, mermaids, pitcas, and so on, but 
there is no sequence of incidents, no hero, no heroine, no , 

Again, ask the old man if he knows e'er a sean-sgeal (story 
or Marchen), and he will ask you at once, ' Did you ever 
hear the Speckled Bull ; did you ever hear the Well at the 
end of the world ; did you ever hear the Tailor and the 
Three Beasts ; did you ever hear the Hornless Cow ? ' 
Ask him to relate one of these, and if you get him in the 
right vein, which may be perhaps one time in ten, or if you 
induce the right vein, which you may do perhaps nine times 
out of ten, you will find him begin with a certain gravity 
and solemnity at the very beginning, thus, ' There was once, 
in old times and in old times it was, a king in Ireland ' ; or 
perhaps ' a man who married a second wife ' ; or perhaps 
' a widow woman with only one son ' : and the tale proceeds 
to recount the life and adventures of the heroes or heroines, 
whose biographies told in Irish in a sort of stereotyped 
form may take from ten minutes to half an hour to get 
through. Some stories would burn out a dip candle in the 
telling, or even last the whole night. But these stories have 
little or nothing to say to the questions raised in this book. 

The problem we have to deal with is a startling one, as 
thus put before us by Mr. Wentz. Are these beings of the 
spirit world real beings, having a veritable existence of their 
own, in a world of their own, or are they only the creation 

* Anglo-Irish for rath, a circular earthen fort. 


of the imagination of his informants, and the tradition of 
bygone centuries ? The newspaper, the ' National ' School, 
and the Zeitgeist have answered to their own entire satis- 
faction that these things are imagination pure and simple. 
Yet this off-hand condemnation does not always carry with 
it a perfect conviction. We do not doubt the existence of 
tree-martins or kingfishers, although nine hundred and 
ninety-nine people out of every thousand pass their entire 
lives without being vouchsafed a glimpse of them in their 
live state ; and may it not be the same with the creatures 
of the spirit world, may not they also exist, though to only 
one in a thousand it be vouchsafed to behold them ? The 
spirit creatures cannot be stuffed and put into museums, 
like rare animals and birds, whose existence we might doubt 
of if we had not seen them there ; yet they may exist 
just as such animals and birds do, though we cannot see 
them. I, at least, have often been tempted to think so. 
But the following considerations, partly drawn from com- 
parative folk-lore, have made me hesitate about definitely 
accepting any theory. 

In the first place, then, viewing the Irish spirit-world as 
a whole, we find that it contains, even on Mr. Wentz's show- 
ing, quite a number of different orders of beings, of varying 
shapes, appearances, size, and functions. Are we to believe 
that all those beings equally exist, and, on the principle that 
there can be no smoke without a fire, are we to hold that 
there would be no popular conception of the banshee, the 
leprechaun, or the Maighdean-mhara (sea-maiden, mermaid), 
and consequently no tales told about them, if such beings 
did not exist, and from time to time allow themselves to be 
seen like the wood-martin and the kingfisher ? This question 
is, moreover, further complicated by the belief in the appear- 
ance of things that are or appear to be inanimate objects, 
not living beings, such as the deaf coach or the phantom 
ship in full sail, the appearance of which Mr. Yeats has 
immortalized in one of his earliest and finest poems. 

Again, although the bean-sidhe (banshee), leprechaun, 
puca, and the like are the most commonly known and usually 


seen creatures of the spirit world, yet great quantities of 
other appearances are beheved to have been also sporadi- 
cally met with. I very well remember sitting one night some 
four or five years ago in an hotel in Indianapolis, U.S.A., 
and talking to four Irishmen, one or two of them very 
wealthy, and all prosperous citizens of the United States. 
The talk happened to turn upon spirits — the only time 
during my entire American experiences in which such 
a thing happened — and each man of the four had a story 
of his own to tell, in which he was a convinced believer, 
of ghostly manifestations seen by him in Ireland. Two of 
these manifestations were of beings that would fall into no 
known category ; a monstrous rabbit as big as an ass, which 
plunged into the sea (rabbits can swim), and a white heifer 
which ascended to heaven, were two of them. I myself, 
when a boy of ten or eleven, was perfectly convinced that 
on a fine early dewy morning in summer when people were 
still in bed, I saw a strange horse run round a seven-acre 
field of ours and change into a woman, who ran even swifter 
than the horse, and after a couple of courses round the field 
disappeared into our haggard. I am sure, whatever I may 
believe to-day, no earthly persuasion would, at the time, 
have convinced me that I did not see this. Yet I never saw 
it again, and never heard of any one else seeing the same. 

My object in mentioning these things is to show that if 
we concede the real objective existence of, let us say, the 
apparently well-authenticated banshee (Bean-sidhe, ' woman- 
fairy '), where are we to stop ? for any number of beings, 
more or less well authenticated, come crowding on her heels, 
so many indeed that they would point to a far more exten- 
sive world of different shapes than is usually suspected, not 
to speak of inanimate objects like the coach and the ship. 
Of course there is nothing inherently impossible in all these 
shapes existing any more than in one of them existing, but 
they all seem to me to rest upon the same kind of testimony, 
stronger in the case of some, less strong in the case of others, 
and it is as well to point out this clearly. 

My own experience is that beliefs in the Sidhe (pronounced 


( Shee) folk, and in other denizens of the invisible world is, 
in many places, rapidly dying. In reading folk-lore collec- 
tions like those of Mr. Wentz and others, one is naturally 
inclined to exaggerate the extent and depth of these tradi- 
tions. They certainly still exist, and can be found if you go 
to search for them ; but they often exist almost as it were 
by sufferance, only in spots, and are ceasing to be any longer 
a power. Near my home in a western county (County Ros- 
common) rises gently a slope, which, owing to the flatness 
of the surrounding regions, almost becomes a hill, and is 
a conspicuous object for many miles upon every side. The 
old people called it in Irish Mullach na Sidhe. This name is 
now practically lost, and it is called Fairymount. So extinct 
have the traditions of the Sidhe-ioXk, who lived within the 
hill, become, that a high ecclesiastic recently driving by 
asked his driver was there an Irish name for the hill, and 
what was it, and his driver did not know. There took place 
a few years ago a much talked of bog-slide in the neigh- 
bouring townland of Cloon-Sheever [Sidhhhair or Siabhra), 
* the Meadow of the Fairies,' and many newspaper corre- 
spondents came to view it. One of the natives told a sym- 
pathetic newspaper reporter, * Sure we always knew it was 
going to move, that 's why the place is named Cloon-Sheever, 
the bog was always in a " shiver " \ ' I have never been 
able to hear of any legends attached to what must have at 
one time been held to be the head-quarters of the Sidhe for 
a score of miles round it. 

Of all the beings in the Irish mythological world the Sidhe 
are, however, apparently the oldest and the most distinctive. 
Beside them in literature and general renown all other beings 
sink into insignificance. A belief in them formerly domi- 
nated the whole of Irish life. The Sidhe or Tuatha De 
Danann were a people like ourselves who inhabited the hills 
— not as a rule the highest and most salient eminences, but 
I think more usually the pleasant undulating slopes or gentle 
hill-sides — and who lived there a life of their own, marrying 
or giving in marriage, banqueting or making war, and 
leading there just as real a life as is our own. All Irish 


literature, particularly perhaps the ' Colloquy of the An- 
cients ' {Agallamh na Sendrach) abounds with reference to 
them. To inquire how the Irish originally came by their 
belief in these beings, the Sidhe or Tuatha De Danann, is to 
raise a question which cannot be answered, any more than 
one can answer the question, Where did the Romans obtain 
their belief in Bacchus and the fauns, or the Greeks their 
own belief in the beings of Olympus ? 

But granting such belief to have been indigenous to the 
Irish, as it certainly seems to have been, then the tall, 
handsome fairies of Ben Bulbin and the Sligo district, about 
whom Mr. Wentz tells us so much interesting matter, might 
be accounted for as being a continuation of the tradition 
of the ancient Gaels, or a piece of heredity inherent in the 
folk-imagination. I mean, in other words, that the tradition 
about these handsome dwellers within the hill-sides having 
been handed down for ages, and having been perhaps ex- 
ceptionally well preserved in those districts, people saw just 
what they had always been told existed, or, if I may so put 
it, they saw what they expected to see. 

Fin Bheara, the King of the Connacht Fairies in Cnoc 
Meadha (or Castlehacket) in the County Galway, his Queen 
Nuala, and all the beautiful forms seen by Mr. Wentz's seer- 
witness (pp. 60 ff.), all the banshees and all the human figures, 
white women, and so forth, who are seen in raths and moats 
and on hill-sides, are the direct descendants, so to speak, of 
the Tuatha De Danann or the Sidhe, Of this, I think, there 
can be no doubt whatever. 

But then how are we to account for the little red-dressed 
men and women and the leprechauns ? Yet, are they any 
more wonderful than the pygmies of classic tradition ? Is 
not the Mermaid to be found in Greece, and is not the 
Lorelei as Germanic as the Kelpy is Caledonian. If we grant 
that all these are creatures of primitive folk-belief, then 
how they come to be so ceases to be a Celtic problem, it 
becomes a world problem. But granted, as I say, that they 
were all creatures of primitive folk-belief, then their occa- 
sional appearances, or the belief in such, may be accounted 


for in exactly the same way as I have suggested to be possible 
in the case of the Ben Bulbin fairies. 

As for the belief in ghosts or revenanls (in Irish tais or 
taidhbhse), it seems to me that this may possibly rest to 
some extent upon a different footing altogether. Here we 
are not confronted by a different order of beings of different 
shapes and attributes from our own, but only with the 
appearances, amongst the living, of men who were believed 
or known to be dead or far away from the scene of their 
appearances. Even those who may be most sceptical about 
the Sidhe-iolk and the leprechauns are likely to be con- 
vinced (on the mere evidence) that the existence of * astral 
bodies ' or * doubles ', or whatever we may call them, and 
the appearances of people, especially in the hour of their 
death, to other people who were perhaps hundreds of miles 
away at the time, is amply proven. Yet whatever may have 
been the case originally when man was young, I do not 
think that this had in later times any more direct bearing 
upon the belief in the Sidhe, the leprechauns, the mermaid, 
and similar beings than upon the belief in the Greek Pan- 
theon, the naiads, the dryads, or the fauns ; all of which 
beliefs, probably arising originally from an animistic source, 
must have differentiated themselves at a very early period. 
Of course every real apparition, every ' ghost ' apparition, 
tends now, and must have tended at all times, to strengthen 
every spirit belief. For do not ghost apparitions belong, in 
a way, to the same realm as all the others we have spoken of, 
that is, to a realm equally outside our normal experience ? 

Another very interesting point, and one hitherto generally 
overlooked, is this, that different parts of the Irish soil 
cherish different bodies of supernatural beings. The North 
of Ireland believes in beings unknown in the South, and 
North-East Leinster has spirits unknown to the West. 
Some places seem to be almost given up to special beliefs. 
Any outsider, for instance, who may have read that powerful 
and grisly book. La Legende de la Mort, by M. Anatole Le 
Braz, in two large volumes, all about the awful appearances 
of Ankou (Death), who simply dominates the folk-lore of 


Brittany, will probably be very much astonished to know 
that, though I have been collecting Irish folk-lore all my life, 
I have never met Death figuring as a personality in more 
than two or three tales, and these mostly of a trivial or 
humorous description, though the Deaf Coach {Cdiste 
Bodhar), the belief in which is pretty general, does seem 
a kind of parallel to the creaking cart in which Ankou rides. 

I would suggest, then, that the restriction of certain forms 
of spirits, if I may so call them, to certain localities, may be 
due to race intermixture. I would imagine that where the 
people of a primitive tribe settled down most strongly, they 
also most strongly preserved the memory of those super- 
natural beings who were peculiarly their own. The Sidhe- 
folk appear to be pre-eminently and distinctively Milesian, 
but the geancanach (name of some little spirit in Meath and 
portion of Ulster) may have been believed in by a race 
entirely different from that which believed in the cluracaun 
(a Munster sprite) . Some of these beliefs may be Aryan, but 
many are probably pre-Celtic. 

Is it not strange that while the names and exploits of the 
great semi-mythological heroes of the various Saga cycles of 
Ireland, Cuchulainn, Conor mac Nessa, Finn, Osgar, Oisin, and 
the rest, are at present the inheritance of all Ireland, and are 
known in every part of it, there should still be, as I have said, 
supernatural beings believed in which are unknown outside of 
their own districts, and of which the rest of Ireland has never 
heard ? If the inhabitants of the limited districts in which 
these are seen still think they see them, my suggestion is that 
the earlier race handed down an account of the primitive 
beings believed in by their own tribe, and later generations, 
if they saw anything, saw just what they were told existed. 

Whilst far from questioning the actual existence of certain 
spiritual forms and apparitions, I venture to throw out these 
considerations for what they may be worth, and I desire 
again to thank Mr. Wentz for all the valuable data he has 
collected for throwing light upon so interesting a question. 

Ratra, Frenchpark, 
County Roscommon, Ireland, 
September 1910. 


The Fairy Folk of Tara 

On the ancient Hill of Tara, from whose heights the High 
Kings once ruled all Ireland, from where the sacred fires in 
pagan days announced the annual resurrection of the sun, 
the Easter Tide, where the magic of Patrick prevailed over 
the magic of the Druids, and where the hosts of the Tuatha 
De Danann were wont to appear at the great Feast of 
Samain, to-day the fairy-folk of modern times hold un- 
disputed sovereignty. And from no point better than Tara, 
which thus was once the magical and political centre of the 
Sacred Island, could we begin our study of the Irish Fairy- 
Faith. Though the Hill has lain unploughed and deserted 
since the curses of Christian priests fell upon it, on the calm 
air of summer evenings, at the twilight hour, wondrous music 
still sounds over its slopes, and at night long, weird proces- 
sions of silent spirits march round its grass-grown raths and 
forts} It is only men who fear the curse of the Christians ; 
the fairy-folk regard it not. 

The Rev. Father Peter Kenney, of Kilmessan, had 
directed me to John Graham, an old man over seventy 
years of age, who has lived near Tara most of his life ; and 
after I had found John, and he had led me from rath to rath 
and then right through the length of the site where once 
stood the banquet hall of kings and heroes and Druids, as 
he earnestly described the past glories of Tara to which 
these ancient monuments bear silent testimony, we sat 
down in the thick sweet grass on the Sacred Hill and began 
talking of the olden times in Ireland, and then of the ' good 
people ' : — 

The ' Good Peoples ' Music. — * As sure as you are sitting 
down I heard the pipes there in that wood (pointing to 

* Throughout Ireland there are many ancient, often prehistoric, earth- 
works or tumuli, which are popularly called forts, raths, or dtins, and in 
folk-belief these are considered fairy hills or the abodes of various orders 
of fairies. In this belief we see at work a definite anthropomorphism which 
attributes dwellings here on earth to an invisible spirit-race, as though this 
race were actually the spirits of the ancient Irish who built the forts. As 
we proceed, we shall see how important and varied a part these earthworks 
play in the Irish Fairy-Faith (cf. chapter viii, on Archaeology). 


a wood on the north-west slope of the Hill, and west of the 
banquet hall). I heard the music another time on a hot 
summer evening at the Rath of Ringlestown, in a field where 
all the grass had been burned off ; and I often heard it in 
the wood of Tara. Whenever the good people play, you 
hear their music all through the field as plain as can be ; 
and it is the grandest kind of music. It may last half the 
night, but once day comes, it ends.' 

Who the ' Good People ' are. — I now asked John what sort 
of a race the ' good people ' are, and where they came from, 
and this is his reply : — * People killed and murdered in war 
stay on earth till their time is up, and they are among the 
good people. The souls on this earth are as thick as the grass 
(running his walking-stick through a thick clump), and you 
can't see them ; and evil spirits are just as thick, too, and 
people don't know it. Because there are so many spirits 
knocking (going) about they must appear to some people. 
The old folk saw the good people here on the Hill a hundred 
times, and they'd always be talking about them. The good 
people can see everything, and you dare not meddle with 
them. They live in raths, and their houses are in them. The 
opinion always was that they are a race of spirits, for they 
can go into different forms, and can appear big as well as 

Evidence from Kilmessan, near Tara 

John Boylin, born in County Meath about sixty years 
ago, will be our witness from Kilmessan, a village about 
two miles from Tara ; and he, being one of the men of the 
vicinity best informed about its folk-lore, is able to offer 
testimony of very great value : — 

The Fairy Tribes. — ' There is said to be a whole tribe of 
little red men living in Glen Odder, between Ringlestown 
and Tara ; and on long evenings in June they have been 
heard. There are other breeds or castes of fairies ; and it 
seems to me, when I recall our ancient traditions, that some 
of these fairies are of the Fir Bolgs, some of the Tuatha De 
Danann, and some of the Milesians. All of them have^been 


seen serenading round the western slope of Tara, dressed in 
ancient Irish costumes. UnHke the little red men, these 
fairy races are warlike and given to making invasions. Long 
processions of them have been seen going round the King's 
Chair (an earthwork on which the Kings of Tara are said 
to have been crowned) ; and they then would appear like 
soldiers of ancient Ireland in review.' 

The Fairy Procession. — ' We were told as children, that, as 
soon as night fell, the fairies from Rath Ringlestown would 
form in a procession, across Tara road, pass round certain 
bushes which have not been disturbed for ages, and join the 
gangkena (?) or host of industrious folk, the red fairies. We 
were afraid, and our nurses always brought us home before 
the advent of the fairy procession. One of the passes used 
by this procession happened to be between two mud-wall 
houses ; and it is said that a man went out of one of these 
houses at the wrong time, for when found he was dead: 
the fairies had taken him because he interfered with their 
procession.' ^ 

Death through Cutting Fairy-Bushes. — ' A man named 
Caffney cut as fuel to boil his pot of potatoes some of these 
undisturbed bushes round which the fairies pass. When 
he put the wood under the pot, though it spat fire, and fire- 
sparkles would come out of it, it would not burn. The man 
pined away gradually. In six months after cutting the fairy- 
bushes, he was dead. Just before he died, he told his 
experiences with the wood to his brother, and his brother 
told me.' 

The Fairies are the Dead. — ' According to the local belief, 
fairies are the spirits of the departed. Tradition says 
that Hugh O'Neil in the sixteenth century, after his march 
to the south, encamped his army on the Rath or Fort of 
Ringlestown, to be assisted by the spirits of the mighty 
dead who dwelt within this rath. And it is believed that 

* An Irish mystic, and seer of great power, with whom I have often 
discussed the Fairy-Faith in its details, regards * fairy paths ' or ' fairy 
passes ' as actual magnetic arteries, so to speak, through which circulates 
the earth's magnetism. 



Gerald Fitzgerald has been seen coming out of the Hill of 
Mollyellen, down in County Louth, leading his horse and 
dressed in the old Irish costume, with breastplate, spear, 
and war outfit.' 

Fairy Possession, — * Rose Carroll was possessed by a 
fairy-spirit. It is known that her father held communion 
with evil spirits, and it appears that they often assisted 
him. The Carr oils' house was built at the end of a fairy 
fort, and part of it was scooped out of this fort. Rose grew 
so peculiar that her folks locked her up. After two years 
she was able to shake off the fairy possession by being taken 
to Father Robinson's sisters, and then to an old witch- 
woman in Drogheda.' 

In the Valley of the Boyne 

In walking along the River Boyne, from Slane to Knowth 
and New Grange, I stopped at the cottage of Owen Morgan, 
at Ross-na-Righ, or ' the Wood of the Kings ', though the 
ancient wood has long since disappeared ; and as we sat 
looking out over the sunlit beauty of Ireland's classic river, 
and in full view of the first of the famous moats, this is what 
Owen Morgan told me : — 

How the Shoemaker's Daughter became the Queen of Tara. — 
' In olden times there lived a shoemaker and his wife up 
there near Moat Knowth, and their first child was taken by 
the queen of the fairies who lived inside the moat, and 
a little leprechaun left in its place. The same exchange was 
made when the second child was born. At the birth of the 
third child the fairy queen came again and ordered one of 
her three servants to take the child ; but the child could 
not be moved because of a great beam of iron, too heavy to 
lift, which lay across the baby's breast. The second servant 
and then the third failed like the first, and the queen her- 
self could not move the child. The mother being short of 
pins had used a n^fidle to fasten the child's clothes, and that 
was what appeared to the fairies as a beam of iron, for there 
was virtue in steel in those days. 

' So the fairy queen decided to bestow gifts upon the 


child ; and advised each of the three servants to give, in 
turn, a different gift. The first one said, " May she be the 
grandest lady in the world " ; the second one said, " May 
she be the greatest singer in the world " ; and the third one 
said, " May she be the best mantle-maker in the world." 
Then the fairy queen said, " Your gifts are all very good, 
but I will give a gift of my own better than any of them : 
the first time she happens to go out of the house let her come 
back into it under the form of a rat." The mother heard all 
that the fairy women said, and so she never permitted her 
daughter to leave the house. 

' When the girl reached the age of eighteen, it happened 
that the young prince of Tara, in riding by on a hunt, heard 
her singing, and so entranced was he with the music that he 
stopped to listen ; and, the song ended, he entered the house, 
and upon seeing the wonderful beauty of the singer asked 
her to marry him. The mother said that could not be, and 
taking the daughter out of the house for the first time 
brought her back into it in an apron under the form of a rat, 
that the prince might understand the refusal. 

* This enchantment, however, did not change the prince's 
love for the beautiful singer ; and he explained how there 
was a day mentioned with his father, the king, for all the 
great ladies of Ireland to assemble in the Halls of Tara, and 
that the grandest lady and the greatest singer and the best 
mantle-maker would be chosen as his wife. When he added 
that each lady must come in a chariot, the rat spoke to him 
and said that he must send to her home, on the day named, 
four piebald cats and a pack of cards, and that she would 
make her appearance, provided that at the time her chariot 
came to the Halls of Tara no one save the prince should be 
allowed near it ; and, she finally said to the prince, " Until 
the day mentioned with your father, you must carry me as 
a rat in your pocket." 

* But before the great day arrived, the rat had made 
everything known to one of the fairy women, and so when 
the four piebald cats and the pack of cards reached the girl's 
home, the fairies at once turned the cats into the four most 

D 2 


splendid horses in the world, and the pack of cards into 
the most wonderful chariot in the world ; and, as the 
chariot was setting out from the Moat for Tara, the fairy 
queen clapped her hands and laughed, and the enchant- 
ment over the girl was broken, so that she became, as 
before, the prettiest lady in the world, and she sitting in the 

' When the prince saw the wonderful chariot coming, he 
knew whose it was, and went out alone to meet it ; but 
he could not believe his eyes on seeing the lady inside. 
And then she told him about the witches and fairies, and 
explained everything. 

* Hundreds of ladies had come to the Halls of Tara from 
all Ireland, and every one as grand as could be. The contest 
began with the singing, and ended with the mantle-making, 
and the young girl was the last to appear ; but to the amaze- 
ment of all the company the king had to give in (admit) 
that the strange woman was the grandest lady, the greatest 
singer, and the best mantle-maker in Ireland ; and when 
the old king died she became the Queen of Tara.' 

After this ancient legend, which Owen Morgan heard from 
the old folks when he was a boy, he told me many anecdotes 
about the * good people ' of the Boyne, who are little men 
usually dressed in red. 

The * Good People ' at New Grange. — Between Knowth and 
New Grange I met Maggie Timmons carrying a pail of 
butter-milk to her calves ; and when we stopped on the road to 
talk, I asked her, in due time, if any of the * good people * ever 
appeared in the region, or about New Grange, which we 
could see in the field, and she replied, in reference to New 
Grange : — * I am sure the neighbours used to see the good 
people come out of it at night and in the morning. The 
good people inherited the fort.* 

Then I asked her what the ' good people * are, and she 
said : — * When they disappear they go like fog ; they must 
be something Hke spirits, or how could they disappear in that 
way ? I knew of people,' she added, * who would milk in 
the fields about here and spill milk on the ground for the 


good people ; and pots of potatoes would be put out for 
the good people at night.' (See chap, viii for additional New 
Grange folk-lore.) 

The Testimony of an Irish Priest 

We now pass directly to West Ireland, in many ways our 
most important field, and where of all places in the Celtic 
world the Fairy-Faith is vigorously alive ; and it seems very 
fitting to offer the first opportunity to testify in behalf of 
that district to a scholarly priest of the Roman Church, for 
what he tells us is almost wholly the result of his own 
memories and experiences as an Irish boy in Connemara, 
supplemented in a valuable way by his wider and more 
mature knowledge of the fairy-belief as he sees it now among 
his own parishioners : — 

Knock Ma Fairies. — * Knock Ma, which you see over there, 
is said to contain excavated passages and a palace where the 
fairies live, and with them the people they have taken. And 
from the inside of the hill there is believed to be an entrance 
to an underground world. It is a common opinion that after 
consumptives die they are there with the fairies in good 
health. The wasted body is not taken into the hill, for it is 
usually regarded as not the body of the deceased but rather 
as that of a changeling, the general belief being that the real 
body and the soul are carried off together, and those of an 
old person from Fairyland substituted. The old person left 
soon declines and dies.' 

Safeguards against Fairies. — ' It was proper when having 
finished milking a cow to put one's thumb in the pail of 
milk, and with the wet thumb to make the sign of the cross 
on the thigh of the cow on the side milked, to be safe against 
fairies. And I have seen them when churning put a live 
coal about an inch square under the churn, because it was 
an old custom connected with fairies.' 

Milk and Butter for Fairies. — ' Whatever milk falls on the 
ground in milking a cow is taken by the fairies, for fairies 
need a little milk. Also, after churning, the knife which is 
run through the butter in drying it must not be scraped 


clean, for what sticks to it belongs to the fairies. Out of 
three pounds of butter, for example, an ounce or two would 
be left for the fairies. I have seen this several times.' 

Crossing a Stream, and Fairies. — ' When out on a dark 
night, if pursued by fairies or ghosts one is considered quite 
safe if one can get oyer some stream. I remember coming 
home on a dark night with a boy companion and hearing 
a noise, and then after we had run to a stream and crossed 
it feeling quite safe.' 

Fairy Preserves. — ' A heap of stones in a field should not be 
disturbed, though needed for building — especially if they are 
part of an ancient tumulus. The fairies are said to live inside 
"" the pile, and to move the stones would be most unfortunate. 
If a house happens to be built on a fairy preserve, or in 
a fairy track, the occupants will have no luck. Everything 
will go wrong. Their animals will die, their children fall 
sick, and no end of trouble will come on them. When the 
house happens to have been built in a fairy track, the doors 
on the front and back, or the windows if they are in the 
line of the track, cannot be kept closed at night, for the 
fairies must march through. Near Ballinrobe there is an 
old fort which is still the preserve of the fairies, and the 
land round it. The soil is very fine, and yet no one would 
/ dare to till it. Some time ago in laying out a new road 
the engineers determined to run it through the fort, but 
the people rose almost in rebellion, and the course had to 
be changed. The farmers wouldn't cut down a tree or bush 
growing on the hill or preserve for anything.' 

Fairy Control over Crops. — * Fairies are believed to control 
crops and their ripening. A field of turnips may promise 
well, and its owner will count on so many tons to the acre, 
but if when the crop is gathered it is found to be far short 
of the estimate, the explanation is that the fairies have 
extracted so much substance from it. The same thing is 
the case with corn.' 

November Eve and Fairies. — * On November Eve it is not 

right to gather or eat blackberries or sloes, nor after that 

X time as long as they last. On November Eve the fairies 


pass over all such things and make them unfit to eat. If one 
dares to eat them afterwards one will have serious illness. 
We firmly believed this as boys, and I laugh now when 
I think how we used to gorge ourselves with berries on the 
last day of October, and then for weeks after pass by bushes 
full of the most luscious fruit, and with mouths watering for 
it couldn't eat it.* 

Fairies as Flies. — ' There is an old abbey on the river, in 
County Mayo, and people say the fairies had a great battle 
near it, and that the slaughter was tremendous. At the time, 
the fairies appeared as swarms of flies coming from every 
direction to that spot. Some came from Knock Ma, and 
some from South Ireland, the opinion being that fairies can 
assume any form they like. The battle lasted a day and 
a night, and when it was over one could have filled baskets 
with the dead flies which floated down the river.* 

Those who Return from Faerie. — ' Persons in a short 
trance-state of two or three days' duration are said to be 
away with the fairies enjoying a festival. The festival may 
be very material in its nature, or it may be purely spiritual. 
Sometimes one may thus go to Faerie for an hour or two ; or 
one may remain there for seven, fourteen, or twenty-one years. 
The mind of a person coming out of Fairyland is usually 
a blank as to what has been seen and done there. Another 
idea is that the person knows well enough all about Fairy- 
land, but is prevented from communicating the knowledge. 
A certain woman of whom I knew said she had forgotten all 
about her experiences in Faerie, but a friend who heard her 
objected, and said she did remember, and wouldn't tell. A 
man may remain awake at night to watch one who has been 
to Fairyland to see if that one holds communication with 
the fairies. Others say in such a case that the fairies know 
you are on the alert, and will not be discovered.' 

The Testimony of a Galway Piper 

Fairies = Sidhedga. — According to our next witness, Steven 
Ruan, a piper of Galway, with whom I have often talked, 
there is one class of fairies ' who are nobody else than the 


spirits of men and women who once lived on earth * ; and 
the banshee is a dead friend, relative, or ancestor who 
appears to give a warning. 'The fairies', he says, 'never 
care about old folks. They only take babies, and young men 
and young women. If a young wife dies, she is said to have 
been taken by them, and ever afterwards to live in Fairyland. 
The same things are said about a young man or a child who 
dies. Fairyland is a place of delights, where music, and 
singing, and dancing, and feasting are continually enjoyed ; 
and its inhabitants are all about us, as numerous as the 
blades of grass.' 

A Fairy Dog. — In the course of another conversation, 
Steven pointed to a rocky knoll in a field not far from his 
home, and said : — ' I saw a dog with a white ring around 
his neck by that hill there, and the oldest men round Galway 
have seen him, too, for he has been here for one hundred 
years or more. He is a dog of the good people, and only 
appears at certain hours of the night.' 

An Old Piper in Fairyland. — And before we had done 
talking, the subject of fairy-music came up, and the follow- 
ing little story coming from one of the last of the old Irish 
pipers himself, about a brother piper, is of more than ordinary 
value : — ' There used to be an old piper called Flannery who 
lived in Oranmore, County Galway. I imagine he was one 
of the old generation. And one time the good people took 
him to Fairyland to learn his profession. He studied music 
with them for a long time, and when he returned he was as 
great a piper as any in Ireland. But he died young, for the 
good people wanted him to play for them.' 

The Testimony of * Old Patsy ' of Aranmore 

Our next witness is an old man, familiarly called ' Old 
Patsy ', who is a native of the Island of Aranmore, off the 
coast from Galway, and he lives on the island amid a little 
group of straw-thatched fishermen's homes called Oak 
Quarter. As * Old Patsy ' stood beside a rude stone cross 
near Oak Quarter, in one of those curious places on Aran- 
more, where each passing funeral stops long enough to erect 


a little memorial pile of stones on the smooth rocky surface 
of the roadside enclosure, he told me many anecdotes about 
the mysteries of his native island. 

Aranmore Fairies. — Twenty years or so ago round the 
Bedd of Dermot and Grania, just above us on the hill, there 
were seen many fairies, ' crowds of them,' said ' Old Patsy ', 
and a single deer. They began to chase the deer, and 
followed it right over the island. At another time similar 
little people chased a horse. ' The rocks were full of them, 
and they were small fellows.* 

A Fairy Beating — in a Dream. — * In the South Island,' he 
continued, ' as night was coming on, a man was giving his 
cow water at a well, and, as he looked on the other side of 
a wall, he saw many strange people playing hurley. When 
they noticed him looking at them, one came up and struck 
the cow a hard blow, and turning on the man cut his face 
and body very badly. The man might not have been so 
badly off, but he returned to the well after the first encounter 
and got five times as bad a beating ; and when he reached 
home he couldn't speak at all, until the cock crew. Then 
he told about his adventures, and slept a little. When he 
woke up in the daylight he was none the worse for his beat- 
ing, for the fairies had rubbed something on his face.' Patsy 
says he knew the man, who if still alive is now in America, 
where he went several years ago. 

Where Fairies Live. — When I asked Patsy where the fairies 
live, he turned half around, and pointing in the direction of 
Dun Aengus, which was in full view on the sharp sky-line 
of Aranmore, said that there, in a large tumulus on the hill- 
side below it, they had one of their favourite abodes. But, A 
he added, * The rocks are full of them, and they are small ^ >/ ^ 
fellows.' Just across the road from where we were standing, 
in a spot near Oak Quarter, another place was pointed out 
where the fairies are often seen dancing. The name of it is 
Moneen an Damhsa, ' the Little Bog of the Dance.' Other 
sorts of fairies live in the sea ; and some of them who live 
on Aranmore (probably in conjunction with those in the 
sea) go out over the water and cause storms and wind. 


The Testimony of a Roman Catholic Theologian 

The following evidence, by the Rev. Father , came 

out during a discussion concerning spirits and fairies as re- 
garded by Roman Catholic theology, which he and I enjoyed 
when we met as fellow travellers in Galway Town : — 

0/ Magic and Place-spirits. — * Magic, according to Catholic 
theology, is nothing else than the solicitation of spiritual 
powers to help us. If evil spirits are evoked by certain 
irrational practices it is unholy magic, and this is altogether 
forbidden by our Church. All charms, spells, divination, 
necromancy, or geomancy are unholy magic. Holy magic is 
practised by carrying the Cross in Christ. Now evil magic 
has been practised here in Ireland : butter has been taken 
so that none came from the churning ; cows have been 
made to die of maladies ; and fields made unproductive. 
^ A cow was bought from an old woman in Connemara, and 
i no butter was ever had from the cow until exorcism with 

holy water was performed. This is reported to me as a fact.' 

And in another relation the Rev. Father said what 

for us is highly significant : — * My private opinion is that in 
certain places here in Ireland where pagan sacrifices were 
practised, evil spirits through receiving homage gained 
control, and still hold control, unless driven out by exor- 

The Testimony of the Town Clerk of Tuam 

To the town clerk of Tuam, Mr. John Glynn, who since 
his boyhood has taken a keen interest in the traditions of 
his native county, I am indebted for the following valuable 
summary of the fairy creed in that part of North Galway 
where Finvara rules : — 

Fairies of the Tuam Country. — ' The whole of Knock Ma 
(Cnoc Meadha'^), which probably means Hill of the Plain, 
is said to be the palace of Finvara, king of the Connaught 

* ' Irish scholars differ as to the signification of Meadha. Some say that 
it is the genitive case of Meadh, the name of some ancient chieftain who 
was buried in the hilL Knock Magh is the spelUng often used by writers 
who hold that the name means " Hill of the Plain ".' — John Glynn. ' 


fairies. There are a good many legends about Fin vara, but 
very few about Queen Meave in this region.' 

Famine of 1846-7 caused by Fairies. — * During 1846-7 
the potato crop in Ireland was a failure, and very much 
suffering resulted. At the time, the country people in these 
parts attributed the famine to disturbed conditions in the 
fairy world. Old Thady Steed once told me about the con- 
ditions then prevailing, " Sure, we couldn't be any other 
way ; and I saw the good people and hundreds besides me 
saw them fighting in the sky over Knock Ma and on towards 
Galway." And I heard others say they saw the fighting 
also.* \ 

Fairyland ; and the Seer ess. — * Fairies are said to be 
immortal, and the fairy world is always described as an 
immaterial place, though I do not think it is the same as 
the world of the dead. Sick persons, however, are often said 
to be with the fairies, and when cured, to have come back. 
A woman who died here about thirty years ago was com- 
monly believed to have been with the fairies during her 
seven years' sickness when she was a maiden. She married 
after coming back, and had children ; and she was always 
able to see the good people and to talk with them, for she 
had the second-sight. And it is said that she used to travel 
with the fairies at night. After her marriage she lived in 
Tuam, and though her people were six or seven miles out 
from Tuam in the country, she could always tell all that 
was taking place with them there, and she at her own home 
at the time.' 

Fairies on May Day. — ' On May Day the good people can 
steal butter if the chance is given them. If a person enters 
a house then, and churning is going on, he must take a hand 
in it, or else there will be no butter. And if fire is given 
away on May Day nothing will go right for the whole year.' 

The Three Fairy Drops. — * Even yet certain things are 
due the fairies ; for example, two years ago, in the Court 
Room here in Tuam, a woman was on trial for watering milk, 
and to the surprise of us all who were conducting the pro- 
ceedings, and, it can be added, to the great amusement of 


the onlookers, she swore that she had only added " the three 
fairy drops "/ 

Food of Fairies. — * Food, after it has been put out at night 
for the fairies, is not allowed to be eaten afterwards by man 
or beast, not even by pigs. Such food is said to have no real 
substance left in it, and to let anything eat it wouldn't 
be thought of. The underlying idea seems to be that the 
fairies extract the spiritual essence from food offered to 
them, leaving behind the grosser elements.' 

Fairy Warfare. — * When the fairy tribes under the various 
kings and queens have a battle, one side manages to have 
a living man among them, and he by knocking the fairies 
about turns the battle in case the side he is on is losing. It 
is always usual for the Munster fairy king to challenge 
Finvara, the Connaught fairy king.' 

County Sligo, and the Testimony of a Peasant Seer ^ 

The Ben Bulbin country in County Sligo is one of those 
rare places in Ireland where fairies are thought to be visible, 
and our first witness from there claims to be able to see 
the fairies or * gentry ' and to talk with them. This mortal 
so favoured lives in the same townland where his fathers 
have lived during four hundred years, directly beneath the 
shadows of Ben Bulbin, on whose sides Dermot is said to 
have been killed while hunting the wild-boar. And this 
famous old mountain, honeycombed with curious grottoes 
ages ago when the sea beat against its perpendicular flanks, 

^ On September 8, 1909, about a year after this testimony was given, 

Mr. , our seer-witness, at his own home near Grange, told to me again 

the same essential facts concerning his psychical experiences as during 
my first interview with him, and even repeated word for word the expres- 
sions the ' gentry ' used in communicating with him. Therefore I feel that 
he is thoroughly sincere in his beliefs and descriptions, whatever various 
readers may think of them. As his neighbours said to me about him — 
and I interviewed a good many of them — * Some give in to him and some 
do not ' ; but they always spoke of him with respect, though a few natur- 
ally consider him eccentric. At the time of our second meeting (which 

gave me a chance to revise the evidence as first taken down) Mr. 

made this additional statement :— ' The gentry do not tell all their secrets, 
and I do not understand many things about them, nor can I be sure that 
everything I tell concerning them is exact.' 


is the very place where the * gentry ' have their chief abode. 
Even on its broad level summit, for it is a high square table- 
land like a mighty cube of rock set down upon the earth 
by some antediluvian god, there are treacherous holes, 
wherein more than one hunter may have been lost for ever, 
penetrating to unknown depths ; and by listening one can hear 
the tides from the ocean three or four miles away surging 
in and out through ancient subterranean channels, connected 
with these holes. In the neighbouring mountains there are 
long caverns which no man has dared to penetrate to the 
end, and even dogs, it is said, have been put in them never 
to emerge, or else to come out miles away. 

One day when the heavy white fog-banks hung over Ben 
Bulbin and its neighbours, and there was a weird almost- 
twilight at midday over the purple heather bog-lands at 
their base, and the rain was falling, I sat with my friend 
before a comfortable fire of fragrant turf in his cottage and 
heard about the ' gentry ' : — 

Encounters with the * Gentry '. — * When I was a young man 
I often used to go out in the mountains over there (point- 
ing out of the window in their direction) to fish for trout, 
or to hunt ; and it was in January on a cold, dry day while 
carrying my gun that I and a friend with me, as we were 
walking around Ben Bulbin, saw one of the gentry for the 
first time. I knew who it was, for I had heard the gentry 
described ever since I could remember ; and this one was 
dressed in blue with a head-dress adorned with what seemed 
to be frills.^ When he came up to us, he said to me in a sweet 
and silvery voice, " The seldomer you come to this moun- 
tain the better. A young lady here wants to take you away." 
Then he told us not to fire off our guns, because the gentry 
dislike being disturbed by the noise. And he seemed to be 
like a soldier of the gentry on guard. As we were leaving 
the mountains, he told us not to look back, and we didn't. 
Another time I was alone trout-fishing in nearly the 
same region when I heard a voice say, "It is bare- 

* A learned and more careful Irish seer thinks this head-dress should 
really be described as an aura. 


footed and fishing." Then there came a whistle Hke music 
and a noise Hke the beating of a drum, and soon one of the 
gentry came and talked with me for half an hour. He said, 
" Your mother will die in eleven months, and do not let her 
die unanointed." And she did die within eleven months. 
As he was going away he warned me, " You must be in the 
house before sunset. Do not delay ! Do not delay ! They 
can do nothing to you until I get back in the castle." As I 
found out afterwards, he was going to take me, but hesitated 
because he did not want to leave my mother alone. After 
these warnings I was always afraid to go to the mountains, but 
lately I have been told I could go if I took a friend with me.' 

* Gentry ' Protection. — * The gentry have always befriended 
and protected me. I was drowned twice but for them. 
Once I was going to Durnish Island, a mile off the coast. 
The channel is very deep, and at the time there was a rough 
sea, with the tide running out, and I was almost lost. I 
shrieked and shouted, and finally got safe to the mainland. 
The day I talked with one of the gentry at the foot of the 
mountain when he was for taking me, he mentioned this, and 
said they were the ones who saved me from drowning then.' 

' Gentry ' Stations. — ' Especially in Ireland, the gentry live 
inside the mountains in beautiful castles ; and there are 
a good many branches of them in other countries. Like 
armies, they have various stations and move from one to 
another. Some live in the Wicklow Mountains near Dublin.' 

' Gentry ' Control Over Human Affairs. — ' The gentry take 
a great interest in the affairs of men, and they always stand 
for justice and right. Any side they favour in our wars, 
that side wins. They favoured the Boers, and the Boers did 
get their rights. They told me they favoured the Japanese 
and not the Russians, because the Russians are tyrants. 
Sometimes they fight among themselves. One of them once 
said, " I'd fight for a friend, or I'd fight for Ireland." ' 

The ' Gentry ' Described. — In response to my wish, this 
description of the ' gentry ' was given :— * The folk are the 
grandest I have ever seen. They are far superior to us, and 
that is why they are called the gentry. They are not a 


working class, but a military-aristocratic class, tall and noble- 
appearing. They are a distinct race between our own and 
that of spirits, as they have told me. Their qualifications 
are tremendous. " We could cut off half the human race, 
but would not," they said, " for we are expecting salvation." 
And I knew a man three or four years ago whom they struck 
down with paralysis. Their sight is so penetrating that 
I think they could see through the earth. They have 
a silvery voice, quick and sweet. The music they play is 
most beautiful. They take the whole body and soul of 
young and intellectual people who are interesting, trans- 
muting the body to a body like their own. I asked them 
once if they ever died, and they said, " No ; we are always 
kept young." Once they take you and you taste food in 
their palace you cannot come back. You are changed to 
one of them, and live with them for ever. They are able 
to appear in different forms. One once appeared to me, and 
seemed only four feet high, and stoutly built. He said, 
*' I am bigger than I appear to you now. We can make the 
old young, the big small, the small big." One of their 
women told all the secrets of my family. She said that my 
brother in Australia would travel much and suffer hard- 
ships, all of which came true ; and foretold that my nephew, 
then about two years old, would become a great clergyman 
in America, and that is what he is now. Besides the gentry, 
who are a distinct class, there are bad spirits and ghosts, 
which are nothing like them. My mother once saw a lepre- 
chaun beside a bush hammering. He disappeared before she 
could get to him, but he also was unlike one of the gentry.' ^ 

* I have been told by a friend in California, who is a student of psychical 
sciences, that there exist in certain parts of that state, notably in the 
Yosemite Valley, as the Red Men seem to have known, according to their 
traditions, invisible races exactly comparable to the ' gentry ' of this Ben 
Bulbin country such as our seer-witness describes them and as other seers 
in Ireland have described them, and quite like the ' people of peace ' as 
described by Kirk, the seventh son, in his Secret Commonwealth (see this 
study, p. 85 n.). These Calif ornia races are said to exist now, as the Irish and 
Scotch invisible races are said to exist now, by seers who can behold them ; 
and, like the latter races, are described as a distinct order of beings who 


Evidence from Grange 

Our next witness, who lives about three miles from our 
last witness, is Hugh Currid, the oldest man in Grange ; and 
so old is he that now he does little more than sit in the 
chimney-corner smoking, and, as he looks at the red glow 
of the peat, dreaming of the olden times. Hugh knows 
Enghsh very imperfectly, and so what he narrated was in 
the ancient Gaelic which his fathers spoke. W^en Father 
Hines took me to Hugh's cottage, Hugh was in his usual 
silent pose before the fire. At first he rather resented having 
his thoughts disturbed, but in a few minutes he was as 
talkative as could be, for there is nothing like the mention 
of Ireland to get him started. The Father left us then ; 
and with the help of Hugh's sister as an interpreter I took 
down what he said : — 

The Flax-Seller's Return from Faerie. — ' An old woman 
near Lough More, where Father Patrick was drowned,^ who 
used to make her living by seUing flax at the market, was 
taken by the gentry, and often came back afterwards to her 
three children to comb their hair. One time she told a 
neighbour that the money she saved from her dealings in 
flax would be found near a big rock on the lake-shore, 
which she indicated, and that she wanted the three children 
to have it.' 

A Wife Recovered from the * Gentry '. — * A man's young 
wife died in confinement while he was absent on some busi- 
ness at Ballingshaun, and one of the gentry came to him and 

have never been in physical embodiments. If we follow the traditions of 
the Red Men, the Yosemite invisible tribes are probably but a few of 
many such tribes scattered throughout the North American continent ; 
and equally with their Celtic relatives they are described as a warHke race 
•with more than human powers over physical nature, and as able to subject 
or destroy men. 

* This refers to a tale told by Hugh Currid, in August, 1908, about 
Father Patrick and Father Dominick, which is here omitted because 
re-investigation during my second visit to Grange, in September, 1909, 
showed the tale to have been incorrectly reported. The same story, how- 
ever, based upon facts, according to several reliable witnesses, was more 
accurately told by Patrick Waters at the time of my re-investigation, and 
appears on page 31. 


said she had been taken. The husband hurried home, and 
that night he sat with the body of his wife all alone. He 
left the door open a Httle, and it wasn't long before his 
wife's spirit came in and went to the cradle where her child 
was sleeping. As she did so, the husband threw at her 
a charm of hen's dung which he had ready, and this held 
her until he could call the neighbours. And while they were 
coming, she went back into her body, and lived a long time 
afterwards. The body was stiff and cold when the husband 
arrived home, though it hadn't been washed or dressed.' 

A Tailor's Testimony 

Our next witness is Patrick Waters, by trade a tailor, 
living in Cloontipruckilish, a cross-road hamlet less than 
two miles from Hugh Currid's home. His first story is 
a parallel to one told about the minister of Aberfoyle who 
was taken by the ' good people ' (pp. 89 ff .) : — 

The Lost Bride. — ' A girl in this region died on her wedding- 
night while dancing. Soon after her death she appeared to 
her husband, and said to him, " I'm not dead at all, but 
I am put from you now for a time. It may be a long time, 
or a short time, I cannot tell. I am not badly off. If you 
want to get me back you must stand at the gap near the 
house and catch me as I go by, for I live near there, and see 
you, and you do not see me." He was anxious enough to 
get her back, and didn't waste any time in getting to the 
gap. When he came to the place, a party of strangers were 
just coming out, and his wife soon appeared as plain as 
could be, but he couldn't stir a hand or foot to save her. 
Then there was a scream and she was gone. The man firmly 
believed this, and would not marry again.' 

The Invisible Island. — ' There is an enchanted island 
which is an invisible island between Innishmurray and the 
mainland opposite. It is only seen once in seven years. 
I saw it myself, and so did four or five others with me. A 
boatman from Sligo named Carr took two strange men with 
him towards Innishmurray, and they disappeared at the spot 
where the island is, and he thought they had fallen over- 



board and been drowned. Carr saw one of the same men 
in Connelly (County Donegal), some six months or so after, 
and with great surprise said to him, " Will you tell me the 
wonders of the world? Is it you I saw drowned near 
Innishmurray ? " " Yes," he said ; and then asked, " Do 
you see me ? " " Yes," answered Carr. " But," said the man 
again, " you do not see me with both eyes ? " Then Carr 
closed one eye to be sure, and found that he saw him with 
one eye only. And he told the man which one it was. At 
this information the fairy man blew on Carr's face, and Carr 
never saw him again.' 

A Dream. — ' My father dreamt he saw two armies coming 
in from the sea, walking on the water. Reaching the strand, 
they lined up and commenced a battle, and my father was 
in great terror. The fighting was long and bloody, and 
when it was over every fighter vanished, the wounded 
and dead as well as the survivors. The next morning an old 
woman who had the reputation of talking with the fairies 
came in the house to my father, who, though greatly dis- 
tiurbed over the dream, had told us nothing of it, and asked 
him, " Have you anything to tell ? I couldn't but laugh 
at you," she added, and before my father could reply, con- 
tinued, ** Well, Jimmy, you won't tell the news, so I will." 
And then she began to tell about the battle. " Ketty ! " ex- 
claimed my father at this, " can it be true ? And who were 
the men beside me ? " When Ketty told him, they turned 
out to be some of his dead friends. She received her in- 
formation from a drowned man whom she met on the spot 
where the gentry armies had come ashore ; and, in the place 
where they fought, the sand was all burnt red, as from fire.' 
As the narrator reflected on this dream story, he remarked 
about dreams generally : — * The reason our dreams appear 
different from what they are is because while in them we 
can't touch the body and transform it. People believe them- 
selves to be with the dead in dreams.* 

During September 1909, when I had several fresh inter- 
views with Patrick Waters, I verified all of his 1908 testimony 
such as it appears above ; and among unimportant anec- 


dotes I have omitted from the matter taken down in 1908 
one anecdote about our seer- witness from County Sligo, 
because it proved to be capable of opposite interpretations. 
Patrick Waters, however, Hke many of his neighbours, 
thoroughly supports Hugh Currid's opinion that our seer- 
witness * surely sees something, and it must be the gentry ' ; 
and of Hugh Currid himself, Patrick Waters said, * Hugh 
Currid did surely see the gentry ; he saw them passing this 
way like a blast of wind.' Patrick's fresh testimony now 
follows, the story about Father Patrick and Father Dominick 
coming first : — 

Father Patrick and Father Dominick. — ' Father Patrick 
Noan while bathing in the harbour at Cams (about three 
miles north-west of Grange) was drowned. His body was 
soon brought ashore, and his brother, Father Dominick Noan, 
was sent for. When Father Dominick arrived, one of the 
men who had collected around the body said to him, " Why 
don't you do something for your brother Patrick ? " " Why 
don't somebody ask me ? " he replied, " for I must be asked 
in the name of God." So Jimmy McGowan went on his 
knees and asked for the honour of God that Father Dominick 
should bring Father Patrick back to life ; and, at this. 
Father Dominick took out his breviary and began to read. 
After a time he whistled, and began to read again. He 
whistled a second time, and returned to the reading. Upon 
his whistling the third time. Father Patrick's spirit appeared 
in the doorway. 

* ** Where were you when I whistled the first time ? " 
Father Dominick asked. " I was at a hurling match with 
the gentry on Mulloughmore strand." ** And where were 
you at the second whistle ? " '* I was coming over Corrick 
Fadda ; and when you whistled the third time I was here 
at the door." Father Patrick's spirit had gone back into 
the body, and Father Patrick lived round here as a priest 
for a long time afterwards. 

* There was no such thing as artificial respiration known 
hereabouts when this happened some fifty or sixty years 
ago. I heard this story, which I know is true, from many 

£ 2 


persons who saw Father Dominick restore his brother 

to life/ 

A Druid Enchantment. — After this strange psychical narra- 
tive, there followed the most weird legend I have heard in 
Celtic lands about Druids and magic. One afternoon Patrick 
Waters pointed out to me the field, near the sea-coast 
opposite Innishmurray, in which the ancient menhir contain- 
ing the ' enchantment ' used to stand ; and, at another time, 
he said that a bronze wand covered with curious marks (or 
else interlaced designs) was found not far from the ruined 
dolmen and allee couverte on the farm of Patrick Bruan, 
about two miles southward. This last statement, like the 
story itself, I have been unable to verify in any way. 

* In times before Christ there were Druids here who 
enchanted one another with Druid rods made of brass, 
and metamorphosed one another into stone and lumps of 
oak. The question is, Where are the spirits of these Druids 
now ? Their spirits are wafted through the air, and the man 
or beast they meet is smitten, while their own bodies are 
still under enchantment. I had such a Druid enchantment 
in my hand ; it wasn't stone, nor marble, nor flint, and had 
human shape. It was found in the centre of a big rock on 
Innis-na-Gore ; and round this rock light used to appear at 
night. The man who owned the stone decided to blast it 
up, and he found at its centre the enchantment — just like 
a man, with head and legs and arms.^ Father Mealy took 
the enchantment away, when he was here on a visit, and 
said that it was a Druid enchanted, and that to get out of 
the rock was one part of the releasement, and that there 
would be a second and complete releasement of the Druid.* 

The Fairy Tribes Classified. — Finally I asked Patrick to 
classify, as far as he could, all the fairy tribes he had ever 
heard about, and he said : — * The leprechaun is a red-capped 
fellow who stays round pure springs, generally shoemaking 

* It happened that I had in my pocket a fossil, picked out of the neigh- 
bouring sea-cliff rocks, which are very rich in fossils. I showed this to 
Pat to ascertain if what he had had in his hand looked anything like it, 
and he at once said * No '. 


for the rest of the fairy tribes. The lunantishees are the 
tribes that guard the blackthorn trees or sloes ; they let 
you cut no stick on the eleventh of November (the original 
November Day), or on the eleventh of May (the original 
May Day). If at such a time you cut a blackthorn, some 
misfortune will come to you. Pookas are black-featured 
fellows mounted on good horses ; and are horse-dealers. 
They visit racecourses, but usually are invisible. The gentry 
are the most noble tribe of all ; and they are a big race who 
came from the planets — according to my idea ; they usually 
appear white. The Daoine Maithe (though there is some 
doubt, the same or almost the same as the gentry) were next 
to Heaven at the Fall, but did not fall ; they are a people 
expecting salvation.' 

Bridget O'Conner's Testimony 

Our next witness is Bridget O'Conner, a near neighbour 
to Patrick Waters, in Cloontipruckilish. When I approached 
her neat little cottage she was cutting sweet-pea blossoms 
with a pair of scissors, and as I stopped to tell her how 
pretty a garden she had, she searched out the finest .white 
bloom she could find and gave it to me. After we had talked 
a little while about America and Ireland, she said I must 
come in and rest a few minutes, and so I did ; and it was 
not long before we were talking about fairies : — 

The Irish Legend of the Dead. — * Old Peggy Gillin, dead 
these thirty years, who lived a mile beyond Grange, used to 
cure people with a secret herb shown to her by her brother, 
dead of a fairy-stroke. He was drowned and taken by the 
fairies, in the big drowning here during the herring season. 
She would pull the herb herself and prepare it by mixing 
spring water with it. Peggy could always talk with her dead 
relatives and friends, and continually with her brother, and 
she would tell everybody that they were with the fairies. 
Her daughter, Mary Short, who inherited some of her 
mother's power, died here about three or four years ago. 

* I remember, too, about Mary Leonard and her daughter, 
Nancy Waters. Both of them are dead now. The daughter 


was the first to die, as it happened, and in child-birth. 
When she was gone, her mother used to wail and cry in an 
awful manner ; and one day the daughter appeared to her 
in the garden, and said, " The more you wail for me, the 
more I am in torment. Pray for me, but do not wail." * 

A Midwife Story. — * A country nurse was requested by 
a strange man on horseback to go with him to exercise her 
profession ; and she went with him to a castle she didn't 
know. When the baby was born, every woman in the place 
where the event happened put her finger in a basin of water 
and rubbed her eyes, and so the nurse put her finger in and 
rubbed it on one of her eyes. She went home and thought 
no more about it. But one day she was at the fair in Grange 
and saw some of the same women who were in the castle 
when the baby was born ; though, as she noticed, she only 
could see them with the one eye she had wet with the water 
from the basin. The nurse spoke to the women, and they 
wanted to know how she recognized them ; and she, in 
reply, said it was with the one eye, and asked, " How is the 
baby?" "Well," said one of the fairy women; "and 
what eye do you see us with ? " " With the left eye," 
answered the nurse. Then the fairy woman blew her breath 
against the nurse's left eye, and said, " You'll never see 
me again." And the nurse was always blind in the left 
eye after that.' 

The Spirit World at Carns 

The Carns or Mount Temple country, about three miles 
from Grange, County Sligo, has already been mentioned by 
witnesses as a * gentry ' haunt, and so now we shall hear what 
one of its oldest and most intelligent native inhabitants says 
of it. John McCann had been referred to, by Patrick Waters, 
as one who knows much about the ' gentry ' at first hand, and 
we can be sure that what he offers us is thoroughly reliable 
evidence. For many years, John McCann, born in 1830, by 
profession a carpenter and boat-builder, has been official 
mail-carrier to Innishmurray ; and he knows quite as much 
about the strange httle island and the mainland opposite it 


as any man living. His neat little cottage is on the shore 
of the bay opposite the beautiful fairy-haunted Darnish 
Island ; and, as we sat within it beside a brilliant peat fire, 
and surrounded by all the family, this is what was told 
me : — 

A ' Gentry ' Medium. — * Ketty Rourk (or Queenan) could 
tell all that would happen — funerals, weddings, and so forth. 
Sure some spirits were coming to her. She said they were 
the gentry ; that the gentry are everywhere ; and that my 
drowned uncles and grandfather and other dead are among 
them. A drowned man named Pat Nicholson was her 
adviser. He used to live just a mile from here ; and she 
knew him before he was drowned.' 

Here we have, clearly enough, a case of * mediumship *, or 
of communication with the dead, as in modern Spiritualism. 
And the following story, which like this last has numerous 
Irish parallels, illustrates an ancient and world-wide animistic 
belief, that in sickness — as in dreams — the soul goes out of 
the body as at death, and meets the dead in their own 
fairy world. 

The Clairvoyance of Mike Farrell. — ' Mike Farrell, too, 
could tell all about the gentry, as he lay sick a long time. 
And he told about Father Brannan's youth, and even the 
house in Roscommon in which the Father was born ; and 
Father Brannan never said anything more against Mike 
after that. Mike surely saw the gentry ; and he was with 
them during his illness for twelve months. He said they 
Hve in forts and at Alt Darby (" the Big Rock "). After 
he got well, he went to America, at the time of the famine.' 

The ' Gentry ' Army. — ' The gentry were beheved to live 
up on this hill (Hill of the Brocket Stones, Cluach-a-brac), 
and from it they would come out like an army and march 
along the road to the strand. Very few. persons could see 
them. They were thought to be hke living people, but in 
different dress. They seemed like soldiers, yet it was known 
they were not living beings such as we are.' 

The Seership of Dan Quinn. — ' On Connor's Island (about 
two miles southward from Cams by the mainland) my uncle, 


Dan Quinn, often used to see big crowds of the gentry come 
into his house and play music and dance. The house would 
be full of them, but they caused him no fear. Once on such 
an occasion, one of them came up to him as he lay in bed, 
and giving him a green leaf told him to put it in his mouth. 
When he did this, instantly he could not see the gentry, but 
could still hear their music. Uncle Dan always believed he 
recognized in some of the gentry his drowned friends. Only 
when he was alone would the gentry visit him. He was a 
silent old man, and so never talked much ; but I know that 
this story is as true as can be, and that the gentry always 
took an interest in him.' 

Under the Shadow of Ben Bulbin and Ben Waskin 

I was driving along the Ben Bulbin road, on the ocean 
side, with Michael Oates, who was on his way from his 
mountain-side home to the lowlands to cut hay ; and as we 
looked up at the ancient mountain, so mysterious and silent 
in the shadows and fog of a calm early morning of summer, 
he told me about its invisible inhabitants : — 

The * Gentry ' Huntsmen. — ' I knew a man who saw the 
gentry hunting on the other side of the mountain. He saw 
hounds and horsemen cross the road and jump the hedge in 
front of him, and it was one o'clock at night. The next day 
he passed the place again, and looked for the tracks of the 
huntsmen, but saw not a trace of tracks at all.' 

The ' Taking ' of the Turf -Cutter. — After I had heard about 
two boys who were drowned opposite Innishmurray, and 
who afterwards appeared as apparitions, for the gentry had 
them, this curious story was related : — * A man was cutting 
turf out on the side of Ben Bulbin when a strange man came 
to him and said, " You have cut enough turf for to-day. 
You had better stop and go home." The turf-cutter looked 
around in surprise, and in two seconds the strange man had 
disappeared ; but he decided to go home. And as soon as he 
was home, such a feeling came over him that he could not 
tell whether he was alive or dead. Then he took to his bed 
and never rose again.* 


Hearing the ' Gentry ' Music. — At this Michael said to his 
companion in the cart with us, WilHam Barber, * You tell 
how you heard the music ' ; and this followed : — * One 
dark night, about one o'clock, myself and another young 
man were passing along the road up there round Ben Bulbin, 
when we heard the finest kind of music. All sorts of music 
seemed to be playing. We could see nothing at all, though 
we thought we heard voices like children's. It was the music 
of the gentry we heard.' 

My next friend to testify is Pat Ruddy, eighty years old, 
one of the most intelligent and prosperous farmers living 
beside Ben Bulbin. He greeted me in the true Irish way, 
but before we could come to talk about fairies his good wife 
induced me to enter another room where she had secretly 
prepared a great feast spread out on a fresh white cloth, 
while Pat and myself had been exchanging opinions about 
America and Ireland. When I returned to the kitchen the 
whole family were assembled round the blazing turf fire, 
and Pat was soon talking about the * gentry ' : — 

Seeing the * Gentry ' Army. — * Old people used to say the 
gentry were in the mountains ; that is certain, but I never 
could be quite sure of it myself. One night, however, near 
midnight, I did have a sight : I set out from Bantrillick to 
come home, and near Ben Bulbin there was the greatest 
army you ever saw, five or six thousand of them in armour 
shining in the moonlight. A strange man rose out of the 
hedge and stopped me, for a minute, in the middle of 
the road. He looked into my face, and then let me go.' 

An Ossianic Fragment. — * A man went away with the good 
people (or gentry), and returned to find the townland all in 
ruins. As he came back riding on a horse of the good people, 
he saw some men in a quarry trying to move a big stone. 
He helped them with it, but his saddle-girth broke, and he 
fell to the ground. The horse ran away, and he was left 
there, an old man ' ^ (cf. pp. 346-7). 

* After this Ossianic fragment, which has been handed down orally, 
I asked Pat if he had ever heard the old people talk about Dermot and 
Grania, and he replied : — ' To be sure I have. Dermot and Grania used to 


A Schoolmaster's Testimony 
A schoolmaster, who is a native of the Ben Bulbin country, 
offers this testimony : — * There is implicit belief here in the 
gentry, especially among the old people. They consider them 
the spirits of their departed relations and friends, who visit 
them in joy and in sorrow. On the death of a member of 
a family, they believe the spirits of their near relatives are 
present ; they do not see them, but feel their presence. 
They even have a strong belief that the spirits show them 
the future in dreams ; and say that cases of affliction are 
always foreshown in a dream. 

* The belief in changelings is not now generally prevalent ; 
but in olden times a mother used to place a pair of iron tongs 
over the cradle before leaving the child alone, in order that 
the fairies should not change the child for a weakly one of 
their own. It was another custom to take a wisp of straw, 
and, lighting one end of it, make a fiery sign of the cross 
over a cradle before a babe could be placed in it.' 

With the Irish Mystics in the Sidi/e World 

Let us now turn to the Rosses Point country, which, as 
we have already said, is one of the very famous places for 
seeing the * gentry ', or, as educated Irish seers who make 
pilgrimages thither call them, the Sidhe. I have been told 
by more than one such seer that there on the hills and Green- 
lands (a great stretch of open country, treeless and grass- 
grown), and on the strand at Lower Rosses Point — called 
Wren Point by the country-folk — these beings can be seen 
and their wonderful music heard ; and a well-known Irish 
artist has shown me many drawings, and paintings in oil, 
of these Sidhe people as he has often beheld them at those 

live in these parts. Dermot stole Finn MacCoul's sister, and had to flee 
away. He took with him a bag of sand and a bunch of heather ; and when 
he was in the mountains he would put the bag of sand under his head at 
night, and then tell everybody he met that he had slept on the sand (the 
sea-shore) ; and when on the sand he would use the bunch of heather for 
a pillow, and say he had slept on the heather (the mountains). And so 
nobody ever caught him at all.' 


places and elsewhere in Ireland. They are described as 
a race of majestic appearance and marvellous beauty, in 
form human, yet in nature divine. The highest order of 
them seems to be a race of beings evolved to a superhuman 
plane of existence, such as the ancients called gods ; and 
with this opinion, strange as it may seem in this age, aU the 
educated Irish seers with whom I have been privileged to 
talk agree, though they go further, and say that these 
highest Sidhe races still inhabiting Ireland are the ever- 
young, immortal divine race known to the ancient men of 
Erin as the Tuatha De Danann. 

Of all European lands I venture to say that Ireland is the 
most mystical, and, in the eyes of true Irishmen, as much 
the Magic Island of Gods and Initiates now as it was when 
the Sacred Fires flashed from its purple, heather-covered 
mountain-tops and mysterious round towers, and the Greater 
Mysteries drew to its hallowed shrines neophytes from the 
West as well as from the East, from India and Egypt as 
well as from Atlantis ; ^ and Erin's mystic-seeing sons still 
watch and wait for the relighting of the Fires and the restora- 
tion of the old Druidic Mysteries. Herein I but imperfectly 
echo the mystic message Ireland's seers gave me, a pilgrim 
to their Sacred Isle. And until this mystic message is inter- 
preted, men cannot discover the secret of Gaelic myth and 
song in olden or in modern times, they cannot drink at the 
ever-flowing fountain of Gaelic genius, the perennial source 
of inspiration which lies behind the new revival of literature 
and art in Ireland, nor understand the seeming reahty of 
the fairy races. 

An Irish Mystic's Testimony 

Through the kindness of an Irish mystic, who is a seer, 
I am enabled to present here, in the form of a dialogue, 
very rare and very important evidence, which will serve to 
illustrate and to confirm what has just been said above about 
the mysticism of Ireland. To anthropologists this evidence 
may be of more than ordinary value when they know that 

* As to probable proof that there was an Atlantis, see p. 333 n. 


it comes from one who is not only a cultured seer but who 
is also a man conspicuously successful in the practical life 
of a great city : — 

Visions. — 

Q. — Are all visions which you have had of the same 
character ? 

A". — ' I have always made a distinction between pictures 
seen in the memory of nature and visions of actual beings 
now existing in the inner world. We can make the same 
distinction in our world : I may close my eyes and see you 
as a vivid picture in memory, or I may look at you with my 
physical eyes and see your actual image. In seeing these 
beings of which I speak, the physical eyes may be open or 
closed : mystical beings in their own world and nature are 
never seen with the physical eyes.' 

Otherworlds. — 

Q. — By the inner world do you mean the Celtic Other world ? 

A. — * Yes ; though there are many Otherworlds. The 
Tir-na-nog of the ancient Irish, in which the races of the 
Sidhe exist, may be described as a radiant archetype of 
this world, though this definition does not at all express its 
psychic nature. In Tir-na-nog one sees nothing save har- 
mony and beautiful forms. There are other worlds in which 
we can see horrible shapes.* 

Classification of the * Sidhe '. — 

Q.-^Do you in any way classify the Sidhe races to which 
you refer ? 

A. — * The beings whom I call the Sidhe, I divide, as I have 
seen them, into two great classes : those which are shining, 
and those which are opalescent and seem lit up by a light 
within themselves. The shining beings appear to be lower 
in the hierarchies ; the opalescent beings are more rarely 
seen, and appear to hold the positions of great chiefs or 
princes among the tribes of Dana.' 

Conditions of Seer ship. — 

Q. — Under what state or condition and where have you 
seen such beings ? 


A. — ' I have seen them most frequently after being away 
from a city or town for a few days. The whole west coast 
of Ireland from Donegal to Kerry seems charged with a 
magical power, and I find it easiest to see while I am there. 
I have always found it comparatively easy to see visions 
while at ancient monuments like New Grange and Dowth, 
because I think such places are naturally charged with 
psychical forces, and were for that reason made use of long 
ago as sacred places. I usually find it possible to throw 
myself into the mood of seeing ; but sometimes visions have 
forced themselves upon me.' 

The Shining Beings. — 

Q. — Can you describe the shining beings ? 

A. — ' It is very difficult to give any intelligible descrip- 
tion of them. The first time I saw them with great vividness 
I was lying on a hill-side alone in the west of Ireland, in 
County Sligo : I had been listening to music in the air, and 
to what seemed to be the sound of bells, and was trying to 
understand these aerial clashings in which wind seemed to 
break upon wind in an ever-changing musical silvery sound. 
Then the space before me grew luminous, and I began to 
see one beautiful being after another.' 

The opalescent Beings. — 

Q. — Can you describe one of the opalescent beings ? 

A. — * The first of these I saw I remember very clearly, 
and the manner of its appearance : there was at first a dazzle 
of light, and then I saw that this came from the heart of 
a tall figure with a body apparently shaped out of half- 
transparent or opalescent air, and throughout the body ran 
a radiant, electrical fire, to which the heart seemed the centre. 
Around the head of this being and through its waving lumi- 
nous hair, which was blown all about the body like living 
strands of gold, there appeared flaming wing-like auras. 
From the being itself light seemed to stream outwards in 
every direction ; and the effect left on me after the vision 
was one of extraordinary lightness, joyousness, or ecstasy. 

* At about this same period of my life I saw many of these 

' ^ 


great beings, and I then thought that I had visions of 
Aengus, Manannan, Lug, and other famous kings or princes 
among the Tuatha De Danann ; but since then I have seen 
so many beings of a similar character that I now no longer 
would attribute to any one of them personal identity with 
particular beings of legend ; though I believe that they 
correspond in a general way to the Tuatha De Danann or 
ancient Irish gods.' 

Stature of the ' Sidhe '. — 

Q. — You speak of the opalescent beings as great beings ; 
what stature do you assign to them, and to the shining 
beings ? 

A. — * The opalescent beings seem to be about fourteen 
feet in stature, though I do not know why I attribute to 
them such definite height, since I had nothing to compare 
them with ; but I have always considered them as much 
taller than our race. The shining beings seem to be about 
our own stature or just a little taller. Peasant and other 
Irish seers do not usually speak of the Sidhe as being little, 
but as being tall : an old schoolmaster in the West of 
Ireland described them to me from his own visions as tall 
beautiful people, and he used some Gaelic words, which 
I took as meaning that they were shining with every 

The worlds of the ' Sidhe.' — 

Q. — Do the two orders of Sidhe beings inhabit the same 
world ? 

A. — * The shining beings belong to the mid-world ; while 
the opalescent beings belong to the heaven-world. There 
are three great worlds which we can see while we are 
still in the body : the earth- world, mid- world, and heaven- 

Nature 0/ the ' Sidhe,' — 

Q. — Do you consider the life and state of these Sidhe 
beings superior to the life and state of men ? 

A. — ' I could never decide. One can say that they them- 


selves are certainly more beautiful than men are, and that 

their worlds seem more beautiful than our world. 

' Among the shining orders there does not seem to be any 
individualized life : thus if one of them raises his hands all 
raise their hands, and if one drinks from a fire-fountain 
all do ; they seem to move and to have their real existence in 
a being higher than themselves, to which they are a kind of 
body. Theirs is, I think, a collective life, so unindividualized 
and so calm that I might have more varied thoughts in five 
hours than they would have in five years ; and yet one feels 
an extraordinary purity and exaltation about their life* 
Beauty of form with them has never been broken up by the 
passions which arise in the developed egotism of human 
beings. A hive of bees has been described as a single organism 
with disconnected cells ; and some of these tribes of shining 
beings seem to be little more than one being manifesting 
itself in many beautiful forms. I speak this with reference 
to the shining beings only : I think that among the opales- 
cent or Sidhe beings, in the heaven- world, there is an even 
closer spiritual unity, but also a greater individuality.' 

Influence of the ' Sidhe ' on Men. — 

Q. — Do you consider any of these Sidhe beings inimical 
to humanity ? 

A. — ' Certain kinds of the shining beings, whom I call 
wood beings, have never affected me with any evil influences 
I could recognize. But the water beings, also of the shining 
tribes, I always dread, because I felt whenever I came 
into contact with them a great drowsiness of mind and, 
I often thought, an actual drawing away of vitality.' 

Water Beings Described. — 

Q. — Can you describe one of these water beings ? 

A. — ' In the world under the waters — under a lake in the 
West of Ireland in this case — I saw a blue and orange 
coloured king seated on a throne ; and there seemed to be 
some fountain of mystical fire rising from under his throne, 
and he breathed this fire into himself as though it were his 
life. As I looked, I saw groups of pale beings, almost grey 


in colour, coming down one side of the throne by the fire- 
fountain. They placed their head and lips near the heart of 
the elemental king, and, then, as they touched him, they 
shot upwards, plumed and radiant, and passed on the other 
side, as though they had received a new life from this chief 
of their world/ 

Wood Beings Described. — 

Q. — Can you describe one of the wood beings ? 

A. — * The wood beings I have seen most often are of 
a shining silvery colour with a tinge of blue or pale violet, 
and with dark purple-coloured hair.* 

Reproduction and Immortality of the ' Sidhe \ — 

Q. — Do you consider the races of the Sidhe able to reproduce 
their kind ; and are they immortal ? 

A. — ' The higher kinds seem capable of breathing forth 
beings out of themselves, but I do not understand how they 
do so. I have seen some of them who contain elemental 
beings within themselves, and these they could send out 
and receive back within themselves again. 

* The immortality ascribed to them by the ancient Irish 
is only a relative immortality, their space of life being much 
greater than ours. In time, however, I believe that they 
grow old and then pass into new bodies just as men do, but 
whether by birth or by the growth of a new body I cannot 
say, since I have no certain knowledge about this.* 

Sex among the ' Sidhe \ — 

Q. — Does sexual differentiation seem to prevail among the 
Sidhe races ? 

A. — * I have seen forms both male and female, and forms 
which did not suggest sex at all.* 

* Sidhe ' and Human Life. — 

Q. — (i) Is it possible, as the ancient Irish thought, that 
certain of the higher Sidhe beings have entered or could 
enter our plane of life by submitting to human birth ? 
(2) On the other hand, do you consider it possible for men 
in trance or at death to enter the Sidhe world ? 


A.— (i) ' I cannot say/ (2) ' Yes ; both in trance and 
after death. I think any one who thought much of the 
Sidhe during his Hfe and who saw them frequently and 
brooded on them would likely go to their world after death. *-_, ^^^ . 

Social Organization of the * Sidhe '. — 

Q. — You refer to chieftain-like or prince-like beings, and 
to a king among water beings; is there therefore definite 
social organization among the various Sidhe orders and 
races, and if so, what is its nature ? 

A. — * I cannot say about a definite social organization. 
I have seen beings who seemed to command others, and who 
were held in reverence. This implies an organization, but 
whether it is instinctive like that of a hive of bees, or con- 
sciously organized like human society, I cannot say.' 

Lower ' Sidhe ' as Nature Elementals. — 

Q. — You speak of the water-being king as an elemental 
king ; do you suggest thereby a resemblance between lower 
Sidhe orders and what mediaeval mystics called elementals ? 

A. — * The lower orders of the Sidhe are, I think, the nature 
elementals of the mediaeval mystics.' 

Nourishment of the Higher ' Sidhe '. — 

Q. — The water beings as you have described them seem to 
be nourished and kept alive by something akin to electrical 
fluids ; do the higher orders of the Sidhe seem to be similarly 
nourished ? 

A. — ' They seemed to me to draw their life out of the Soul 
of the World.' 

Collective Visions of ' Sidhe ' Beings. — 

Q. — Have you had visions of the various Sidhe beings in 
company with other persons ? 

A. — ' I have had such visions on several occasions.* 
And this statement has been confirmed to me by three 
participants in such collective visions, who separately at 
different times have seen in company with our witness the 
same vision at the same moment. On another occasion, on 
the Greenlands at Rosses Point, County Sligo, the same 



Sidhe being was seen by our present witness and a friend 
with him, also possessing the faculty of seership, at a time 
when the two percipients were some little distance apart, 
and they hurried to each other to describe the being, not 
knowing that the explanation was mutually unnecessary. 
I have talked with both percipients so much, and know 
them so intimately that I am fully able to state that as 
percipients they fulfil all necessary pathological conditions 
required by psychologists in order to make their evidence^ 

Parallel Evidence as to the Sidhe Races 

In general, the rare evidence above recorded from the 
Irish seer could be paralleled by similar evidence from at 
Jeast two other reliable Irish people, with whom also I have 
been privileged to discuss the Fairy-Faith. One is a member 
of the Royal Irish Academy, the other is the wife of a well- 
known Irish historian ; and both of them testify to having 
likewise had collective visions of Sidhe beings in Ireland. 

This is what Mr. William B. Yeats wrote to me, while this 
study was in progress, concerning the Celtic Fairy King- 
dom : — * I am certain that it exists, and will some day be 
studied as it was studied by Kirk.' ^ 

Independent Evidence from the Sidhe World 

One of the most remarkable discoveries of our Celtic 
researches has been that the native population of the Rosses 
Point country, or, as we have called it, the Sidhe world, in 
most essentials, and, what is most important, by inde- 
pendent folk-testimony, substantiate the opinions and state- 
ments of the educated Irish mystics to whom we have 
just referred, as follows : — 

John Conway's Vision of the ' Gentry '. — In Upper Rosses 
Point, Mrs. J. Conway told me this about the ' gentry ' : — 
' John Conway, my husband, who was a pilot by profession, 

^ This refers to Robert Kirk, minister of Aberfoyle, who wrote The Secret 
Commonwealth (see this study, p. 85 n.). 


in watching for in-coming ships used to go up on the high 
hill among the Fairy Hills ; and there he often saw the 
gentry going down the hill to the strand. One night in par- 
ticular he recognized them as men and women of the gentry ; 
and they were as big as any living people. It was late at 
night about forty years ago.' 

Ghosts and Fairies. — When first I introduced myself to 
Owen Conway, in his bachelor quarters, a cosy cottage at 
Upper Rosses Point, he said that Mr. W. B. Yeats and other 
men famous in Irish literature had visited him to hear about 
the fairies, and that though he knew very little about the 
fairies he nevertheless always likes to talk of them. Then 
Owen began to tell me about a man's ghost which both he 
and Bran Reggan had seen at different times on the road to 
Sligo, then about a woman's ghost which he and other people 
had often seen near where we were, and then about the 
exorcizing of a haunted house in Sligo some sixty years ago 
by Father McGowan, who as a result died soon afterwards, 
apparently having been killed by the exorcized spirits. 
Finally, I heard from him the following anecdotes about 
the fairies : — 

A Stone Wall overthrown by ' Fairy ' Agency. — * Nothing is 
more certain than that there are fairies. The old folks 
always thought them the fallen angels. At the fcack of this 
house the fairies had their pass. My neighbour started to 
build a cow-shed, and one wall abutting on the pass was 
thrown down twice, and nothing but the fairies ever did it. 
The third time the wall was built it stood.' 

Fairies passing through Stone Walls. — * Where MacEwen's 
house stands was a noted fairy place. Men in building the 
house saw fairies on horses coming across the spot, and the 
stone walls did not stop them at all.' 

Seeing the ' Gentry \ — ' A cousin of mine, who was a pilot, 
once went to the watch-house up there on the Point to take 
his brother's place ; and he saw ladies coming towards him 
as he crossed the Greenlands. At first he thought they were 
coming from a dance, but there was no dance going then, 
and, if there had been, no human beings dressed like them 

F 2 


and moving as they were could have come from any part of 
the globe, and in so great a party, at that hour of the night. 
Then when they passed him and he saw how beautiful they 
were, he knew them for the gentry women.' 

* Michael Reddy (our next witness) saw the gentry down 
on the Greenlands in regimentals like an army, and in day- 
light. He was a young man at the time, and had been sent 
out to see if any cattle were astray.* 

And this is what Michael Reddy, of Rosses Point, now 
a sailor on the ship Tartar, sailing from Sligo to neighbour- 
ing ports on the Irish coast, asserts in confirmation of Owen 
Conway's statement about him : — * I saw the gentry on the 
strand (at Lower Rosses Point) about forty years ago. It 
was afternoon. I first saw one of them like an officer point- 
ing at me what seemed a sword ; and when I got on the 
Greenlands I saw a great company of gentry, like soldiers, 
in red, laughing and shouting. Their leader was a big man^ 
and they were ordinary human size. As a result [of this 
vision] I took to my bed and lay there for weeks. Upon 
another occasion, late at night, I was with my mother 
milking cows, and we heard the gentry all round us talking, 
but could not see them.' 

Going to the * Gentry ' through Death, Dreams, or Trance. — 
John O' Conway, one of the most reliable citizens of Upper 
Rosses Point, offers the following testimony concerning the 
* gentry * : — * In olden times the gentry were very numerous 
about forts and here on the Greenlands, but rarely seen. 
They appeared to be the same as any living men. When 
people died it was said the gentry took them, for they would 
afterwards appear among the gentry,' 

* We had a ploughman of good habits who came in one 
day too late for his morning's work, and he in excuse very 
seriously said, " May be if you had travelled all night as 
much as I have you wouldn't talk. I was away with the 
gentry, and save for a lady I couldn't have been back now. 
I saw a long hall full of many people. Some of them I knew 
and some I did not know. The lady saved me by telling 
me to eat no food there, however enticing it might be." ' 


* A young man at Drumcliffe was taken [in a trance state], 
and was with the Daoine Maithe some time, and then got 
back. Another man, whom I knew well, was haunted by 
the gentry for a long time, and he often went off with them ' 
(apparently in a dream or trance state). 

' Sidhe ' Music. — The story which now follows substan- 
tiates the testimony of cultured Irish seers that at Lower 
Rosses Point the music of the Sidhe can be heard : — ' Three 
women were gathering shell-fish, in the month of March, on 
the lowest point of the strand (Lower Rosses or Wren Point) 
when they heard the most beautiful music. They set to 
work to dance with it, and danced themselves sick. They 
then thanked the invisible musician and went home.' 

The Testimony of a College Professor 

Our next witness is the Rev. Father , a professor in 

a CathoHc college in West Ireland, and most of his state- 
ments are based on events which happened among his own 
acquaintances and relatives, and his deductions are the result 
of careful investigation : — 

Apparitions from Fairyland. — ' Some twenty to thirty 
years ago, on the borders of County Roscommon near County 
Sligo, according to the firm belief of one of my own relatives, 
a sister of his was taken by the fairies on her wedding-night, 
and she appeared to her mother afterwards as an apparition. 
She seemed to want to speak, but her mother, who was in 
bed at the time, was thoroughly frightened, and turned her 
face to the wall. The mother is convinced that she saw this 
apparition of her daughter, and my relative thinks she 
might have saved her. 

* This same relative who gives it as his opinion that his 
sister was taken by the fairies, at a different time saw the 
apparition of another relative of mine who also, according 
to similar belief, had been taken by the fairies when only 
five years old. The child-apparition appeared beside its 
living sister one day while the sister was going from the 
yard into the house, and it followed her in. It is said 
the child was taken because she was such a good girl.' 


Nature of the Belief in Fairies. — 'As children we were always 
afraid of fairies, and were taught to say " God bless them ! 
God bless them ! " whenever we heard them mentioned. 

' In our family we always made it a point to have clean 
water in the house at night for the fairies. 

* If anything like dirty water was thrown out of doors 
after dark it was necessary to say " Hugga, hugga salach ! " 
as a warning to the fairies not to get their clothes wet. 

' Untasted food, like milk, used to be left on the table at 
night for the fairies. If you were eating and food fell from 
you, it was not right to take it back, for the fairies wanted it. 
Many families are very serious about this even now. The 
luckiest thing to do in such cases is to pick up the food and eat 
just a speck of it and then throw the rest away to the fairies. 

* Ghosts and apparitions are commonly said to live in 
isolated thorn-bushes, or thorn-trees. Many lonely bushes of 
this kind have their ghosts. For example, there is Fanny's 
Bush, Sally's Bush, and another I know of in County Sligo 
near Boyle.' 

Personal Opinions. — * The fairies of any one race are the 
people of the preceding race — the Fomors for the Fir Bolgs, 
the Fir Bolgs for the Dananns, and the Dananns for us. 
The old races died. Where did they go ? They became 
spirits — and fairies. Second-sight gave our race power to 
see the inner world. When Christianity came to Ireland the 
people had no definite heaven. Before, their ideas about the 
other world were vague. But the older ideas of a spirit world 
remained side by side with the Christian ones, and being pre- 
served in a subconscious way gave rise to the fairy world.' 

Evidence from County Roscommon 

Our next place for investigation will be the ancient pro- 
vince of the great fairy-queen Meave, who made herself 
famous by leading against Cuchulainn the united armies of 
four of the five provinces of Ireland, and all on account 
of a bull which she coveted. And there could be no better 
part of it to visit than Roscommon, which Dr. Douglas Hyde 
has made popular in Irish folk-lore. 


Dr. Hyde and the Leprechaun. — One day while I was privi- 
leged to be at Ratra, Dr. Hyde invited me to walk with him 
in the country. After we had visited an old fort which belongs 
to the * good people ', and had noticed some other of their 
haunts in that part of Queen Meave's realm, we entered 
a straw-thatched cottage on the roadside and found the 
good house-wife and her fine-looking daughter both at 
home. In response to Dr. Hyde's inquiries, the mother 
stated that one day, in her girlhood, near a hedge from 
which she was gathering wild berries, she saw a leprechaun 
in a hole under a stone : — * He wasn't much larger than a 
doll, and he was most perfectly formed, with a little mouth 
and eyes.' Nothing was told about the little fellow having 
a money-bag, although the woman said people told her after- 
wards that she would have been rich if she had only had 
sense enough to catch him when she had so good a chance.^ 

The Death Coach. — The next tale the mother told was 
about the death coach which used to pass by the very 
house we were in. Every night until after her daughter 
was born she used to rise up on her elbow in bed to listen 
to the death coach passing by. It passed about midnight, 
and she could hear the rushing, the tramping of the horses, 
and most beautiful singing, just like fairy music, but she 
could not understand the words. Once or twice she was 
brave enough to open the door and look out as the coach 
passed, but she could never see a thing, though there was 

* In going from East Ireland to Gal way, during the summer of 1908, 
I passed through the country near Mullingar, where there was then great 
excitement over a leprechaun which had been appearing to school-children 
and to many of the country-folk. I talked with some of the people as 
I walked through part of County Meath about this leprechaun, and most 
of them were certain that there could be such a creature showing itself ; and 
I noticed, too, that they were all quite anxious to have a chance at the 
money-bag, if they could only see the little fellow with it. I told one good- 
natured old Irishman at Ballywillan — where I stopped over night — as we 
sat round his peat fire and pot of boiling potatoes, that the leprechaun 
was reported as captured by the police in Mullingar. ' Now that couldn't be, 
at all,' he said instantly, ' for everybody knows the leprechaun is a spirit 
and can't be caught by any blessed policeman, though it is likely one might 
get his gold if they got him cornered so he had no chance to run away. 
But the minute you wink or take your eyes off the little devil, sure enough 
he is gone.' 


the noise and singing. One time a man had to wait on the 
roadside to let the fairy horses go by, and he could hear their 
passing very clearly, and couldn't see one of them. 

When we got home, Dr. Hyde told me that the fairies of 
the region are rarely seen. The people usually say that they 
hear or feel them only. 

The * Good People ' and Mr. Gilleran. — After the mother 
had testified, the daughter, who is quite of the younger 
generation, gave her own opinion. She said that the * good 
people ' live in the forts and often take men and women or 
youths who pass by the forts after sunset ; that Mr. Gilleran, 
who died not long ago, once saw certain dead friends and 
recognized among them those who were believed to have 
been taken and those who died naturally, and that he saw 
them again when he was on his death-bed. 

We have here, as in so many other accounts, a clear con- 
nexion between the realm of the dead and Fairyland. 

The Testimony of a Lough Derg Seer 

Neil Colton, seventy-three years old, who lives in Tamlach 
Townland, on the shores of Lough Derg, County Donegal, 
has a local reputation for having seen the 'gentle folk', and so 
I called upon him. As we sat round his blazing turf fire, 
and in the midst of his family of three sturdy boys — for he 
married late in life — this is what he related : — 

A Girl Recovered from Faerie. — * One day, just before 
sunset in midsummer, and I a boy then, my brother and 
cousin and myself were gathering bilberries (whortleberries) 
up by the rocks at the back of here, when all at once we 
heard music. We hurried round the rocks, and there we 
were within a few hundred feet of six or eight of the gentle 
folk, and they dancing. When they saw us, a little woman 
dressed all in red came running out from them towards us, 
and she struck my cousin across the face with what seemed 
to be a green rush. We ran for home as hard as we could, 
and when my cousin reached the house she fell dead. Father 
saddled a horse and went for Father Ryan. When Father 
Ryan arrived, he put a stole about his neck and began pray- 


ing over my cousin and reading psalms and striking her with 
the stole ; and in that way brought her back. He said if 
she had not caught hold of my brother, she would have been 
taken for ever.* 

The * Gentle Folk \ — ' The gentle folk are not earthly 
people ; they are a people with a nature of their own. Even 
in the water there are men and women of the same character. 
Others have caves in the rocks, and in them rooms and 
apartments. These races were terribly plentiful a hundred 
years ago, and they'll come back again. My father lived 
two miles from here, where there were plenty of the gentle 
folk. In olden times they used to take young folks and keep 
them and draw all the life out of their bodies. Nobody could 
ever tell their nature exactly/ 

Evidence from County Fermanagh 

From James Summerville, eighty-eight years old, who 
lives in the country near Irvinestown, I heard much about 
the * wee people ' and about banshees, and then the following 
remarkable story concerning the ' good people ' : — 

Travelling Clairvoyance through ' Fairy ' Agency. — * From 
near Edemey, County Fermanagh, about seventy years ago, 
a man whom I knew well was taken to America on Hallow 
Eve Night ; and they (the good people) made him look down 
a chimney to see his own daughter cooking at a kitchen fire. 
Then they took him to another place in America, where he 
saw a friend he knew. The next morning he was at his own 
home here in Ireland. 

' This man wrote a letter to his daughter to know if she 
was at the place and at the work on Hallow Eve Night, and 
she wrote back that she was. He was sure that it was the 
good people who had taken him to America and back in 
one night.* 

Evidence from County Antrim 

At the request of Major R. G. Berry, M.R.I.A., of Richill 
Castle, Armagh, Mr. H. Higginson, of Glenavy, County 
Antrim, collected all the material he could find concerning 
the fairy-tradition in his part of County Antrim, and sent 


to me the results, from which I have selected the very in- 
teresting, and, in some respects, unique tales which follow : — 

The Fairies and the Weaver. — * Ned Judge, of Sophys 
Bridge, was a weaver. Every night after he went to bed 
the weaving started of itself, and when he arose in the morn- 
ing he would find the dressing which had been made ready 
for weaving so broken and entangled that it took him hours 
to put it right. Yet with all this drawback he got no poorer, 
because the fairies left him plenty of household necessaries, 
and whenever he sold a web [of cloth] he always received 
treble the amount bargained for.' 

Meeting Two Regiments of * Them \ — * William Megarry, 
of Ballinderry, as his daughter who is married to James 
Megarry, J. P., told me, was one night going to Crumlin on 
horseback for a doctor, when after passing through Glenavy 
he met just opposite the Vicarage two regiments of them 
(the fairies) coming along the road towards Glenavy. One 
regiment was dressed in red and one in blue or green uniform. 
They were playing music, but when they opened out to let 
him pass through the middle of them the music ceased until 
he had passed by.' 

In Cuchulainn's Country : A Civil Engineer's 


In the heroic days of pagan Ireland, as tradition tells, the 
ancient earthworks, now called the Navan Rings, just out- 
side Armagh, were the stronghold of Cuchulainn and the 
Red Branch Knights ; and, later, under Patrick, Armagh 
itself, one of the old mystic centres of Erin, became the 
ecclesiastical capital of the Gaels. And from this romantic 
country, one of its best informed native sons, a graduate 
civil engineer of Dublin University, offers the following 
important evidence : — 

The Fairies are the Dead. — * When I was a youngster near 
Armagh, I was kept good by being told that the fairies 
could take bad boys away. The sane belief about the fairies, 
however, is different, as I discovered when I grew up. The 
old people in County Armagh seriously believe that the 


fairies are the spirits of the dead ; and they say that if you 
have many friends deceased you have many friendly fairies, 
or if you have many enemies deceased you have many fairies 
looking out to do you harm.' 

Food-Offerings to Place-Fairies. — * It was very usual 
formerly, and the practice is not yet given up, to place 
a bed, some other furniture, and plenty of food in a newly- 
constructed dwelling the night before the time fixed for 
moving into it ; and if the food is not consumed, and the 
crumbs swept up by the door in the morning, the house 
cannot safely be occupied. I know of two houses now that 
have never been occupied, because the fairies did not show 
their willingness and goodwill by taking food so offered to 

On the Slopes of Slieve Gullion 

In climbing to the summit of Cuchulainn's mountain, 
which overlooks parts of the territory made famous by the 
'Cattle Raid of Cooley', I met John O'Hare, sixty-eight 
years old, of Longfield Townland, leading his horse to pasture, 
and I stopped to talk with him about the ' good people '. 

* The good people in this mountain,' he said, ' are the people 
who have died and been taken ; the mountain is enchanted.' 

The * Fairy ' Overflowing of the Meal-Chest. — ' An old 
w^oman came to the wife of Steven Callaghan and told her 
not to let Steven cut a certain hedge. "It is where we 
shelter at night," the old woman added ; and Mrs. Callaghan 
recognized the old woman as one who had been taken in 
confinement. A few nights later the same old woman 
appeared to Mrs. Callaghan and asked for charity ; and she 
was offered some meal, which she did not take. Then she 
asked for lodgings, but did not stop. When Mrs. Callaghan 
saw the meal-chest next morning it was overflowing with 
meal : it was the old woman's gift for the hedge.' 

The Testimony of two Dromintee Percipients 

After my friend, the Rev. Father L. Donnellan, C.C, of 
Dromintee, County Armagh, had introduced me to Alice 
Cunningham, of his parish, and she had told much about 


the 'gentle folk', she emphatically declared that they do exist 
— and this in the presence of Father Donnellan — because 
she has often seen them on Carrickbroad Mountain, near 
where she lives. And she then reported as follows concern- 
ing enchanted Slieve Gullion : — 

The ' Sidhe ' Guardian of Slieve Gullion. — * The top of 
Slieve Gullion is a very gentle place. A fairy has her house 
there by the lake, but she is invisible. She interferes with 
nobody. I hear of no gentler places about here than Carrick- 
broad and Slieve Gullion.' 

Father Donnellan and I called next upon Thomas McCrink and 
his wife at Carr if amay an, because Mrs. McCrink claims to have 
seen some of the * good people ', and this is her testimony : — 

Nature of the * Good People \ — * I've heard and felt the 
good people coming on the wind ; and I once saw them down 
in the middle field on my father's place playing football. 
They are still on earth. Among them are the spirits of our 
ancestors ; and these rejoice whenever good fortune comes 
our way, for I saw them before my mother won her land 
[after a long legal contest] in the field rejoicing. 

* Some of the good people I have thought were fallen 
angels, though these may be dead people whose time is not 
up. . We are only like shadows in this world : my mother 
died in England, and she came to me in the spirit. I saw 
her plainly. I ran to catch her, but my hands ran through 
her form as if it were mere mist. Then there was a crack, 
and she was gone.' And, finally, after a moment, our per- 
cipient said : — ' The fairies once passed down this lane here 
on a Christmas morning ; and I took them to be suffering 
souls out of Purgatory, going to mass.' 

- The Testimony of a Dromintee Seeress 

Father Donnellan, the following day, took me to talk with 
almost the oldest woman in his parish, Mrs. Biddy Grant, 
eighty-six years old, of Upper Toughal, beside Slieve Gullion. 
Mrs. Grant is a fine specimen of an Irishwoman, with white 
hair, clear complexion, and an expression of great natural 
intelligence, though now somewhat feeble from age. Her 


mind is yet clear, however ; and her testimony is sub- 
stantiated by this statement from her own daughter, who 
Hves with her : — * My mother has the power of seeing 
things. It is a fact with her that spirits exist. She has 
seen much, even in her old age ; and what she is always 
telling me scares me half to death.* 

The following is Mrs. Grant's direct testimony given at 
her own home, on September 20, 1909, in answer to our 
question if she knew anything about the * good people ' : — 

Seeing the * Good People ' as the Dead. — * I saw them once 
as plain as can be — big, little, old, and young. I was in bed 
at the time, and a boy whom I had reared since he was born 
was lying ill beside me. Two of them came and looked at 
him ; then came in three of them. One of them seemed to 
have something like a book, and he put his hand to the boy's 
mouth ; then he went away, while others appeared, opening 
the back window to make an avenue through the house; 
and through this avenue came great crowds. At this I shook 
the boy, and said to him, " Do you see anything ? " " No," 
he said ; but as I made him look a second time he said, 
" I do." After that he got well. 

' These good people were the spirits of our dead friends, 
but I could not recognize them. I have often seen them 
that way while in my bed. Many women are among them. 
I once touched a boy of theirs, and he was just like feathers 
in my hand ; there was no substance in him, and I knew 
he wasn't a living being. I don't know where they live ; 
I've heard they live in the Carrige (rocks). Many a time I've 
heard of their taking people or leading them astray. They 
can't live far away when they come to me in such a rush. 
They are as big as we are. I think these fairy people are all 
through this country and in the mountains.' 

An Apparition of a * Sidhe ' Woman ? — * At a wake I went 
out of doors at midnight and saw a woman running up and 
down the field with a strange light in her hand. I called out 
my daughter, but she saw nothing, though all the time the 
woman dicssed in white was in the field, shaking the light 
and running back and forth as fast as you could wink. 


I thought the woman might be the spirit of Nancy Frink, 
but I was not sure/ (Cf. pp. 60 ff., 83, 155, 215.) 

Evidence from Lough Gur, County Limerick 
One of the most interesting parts of Ireland for the 
archaeologist and for the folk-lorist alike is the territory 
immediately surrounding Lough Gur, County Limerick. 
Shut in for the most part from the outer world by a circle 
of low-lying hills on whose summits fairy goddesses yet 
dwell invisibly, this region, famous for its numerous and well- 
preserved cromlechs, dolmens, menhirs, and tumuh, and for 
the rare folk-traditions current among its peasantry, has 
long been popularly regarded as a sort of Otherworld pre- 
serve haunted by fairy beings, who dwell both in its waters 
and on its land. 

There seems to be no reasonable doubt that in pre- 
Christian times the Lough Gur country was a very sacred 
spot, a mystic centre for pilgrimages and for the celebration 
of Celtic religious rites, including those of initiation. The 
Lough is still enchanted, but once in seven years the spell 
passes off it, and it then appears like dry land to any one 
that is fortunate enough to behold it. At such a time of 
disenchantment a Tree is seen growing up through the lake- 
bottom — a Tree like the strange World-Tree of Scandinavian 
myth. The Tree is covered with a Green Cloth, and under it 
sits the lake's guardian, a woman knitting.^ The peasantry 
about Lough Gur still believe that beneath its waters there 
is one of the chief entrances in Ireland to Ttr-na-nog, the 
' Land of Youth ', the Fairy Realm. And when a child is 
stolen by the Munster fairies, * Lough Gur is conjectured to 
be the place of its unearthly transmutation from the human 
to the fairy state.' ^ 

VCf. David Fitzgerald, Popular Tales of Ireland, in Rev. Celt., iv. 185- 
92 ; and All the Year Round, New Series, iii. 'This woman guardian of 
the lake is called Toice Bhrean, "untidy " or "lazy wench ". According 
to a local legend, she is said to have been originally the guardian of the 
sacred well, from which, owing to her neglect, Lough Gur issued ; and in 
this r6le she corresponds toLiban, daughter of Eochaidh Finn, the guardian 
of the sacred well from which issued Lough Neagh, according to the 
Dinnshenchas and the tale of Eochaidh MacMairido.' — J. F. Lynch. 


To my friend, Count John de Salis, of Balliol College, 
I am indebted for the following legendary material, collected 
by him on the fairy-haunted Lough Gur estate, his ancestral 
home, and annotated by the Rev. J. F. Lynch, one of the 
best-informed antiquarians living in that part of South 
Ireland : — 

The Fairy Goddesses, Aine and Fennel {or Finnen). — 
* There are two hills near Lough Gur upon whose summits 
sacrifices and sacred rites used to be celebrated according to 
living tradition. One, about three miles south-west of the 
lake, is called Knock Aine, Aine or Ane being the name of 
an ancient Irish goddess, derived from an, " bright." The 
other, the highest hill on the lake-shores, is called Knock 
Fennel or Hill of the Goddess Fennel, from Finnen or Finnine 
or Fininne, a form oi fin, " white." The peasantry of the 
region call Aine one of the Good People ; ^ and they say that 

* It was on the bank of the little river Camog, which flows near Lough 
Gur, that the Earl of Desmond one day saw Aine as she sat there combing 
her hair. Overcome with love for the fairy-goddess, he gained control 
over her through seizing her cloak, and made her his wife. From this 
union was bom the enchanted son Ceroid larla, even as Galahad was born 
to Lancelot by the Lady of the Lake. When Geroid had grown into young 
manhood, in order to surpass a woman he leaped right into a bottle and 
right out again, and this happened in the midst of a banquet in his father's 
castle. His father, the earl, had been put under taboo by Aine never to 
show surprise at anything her magician son might do, but now the taboo 
was forgotten, and hence broken, amid so unusual a performance ; and 
immediately Geroid left the feasting and went to the lake. As soon as its 
water touched him he assumed the form of a goose, and he went swimming 
over the surface of the Lough, and disappeared on Garrod Island. 

According to one legend, Aine, like the Breton Morgan, may sometimes 
be seen combing her hair, only half her body appearing above the lake. 
And in times of calmness and clear water, according to another legend, 
one may behold beneath Aine's lake the lost enchanted castle of her son 
Geroid, close to Garrod Island — so named from Geroid or ' Gerald '. 

Geroid lives there in the under-lake world to this day, awaiting the time 
of his normal return to the world of men (see our chapter on re-birth, 
p. 386). But once in every seven years, on clear moonlight nights, 
he emerges temporarily, when the Lough Gur peasantry see him as a 
phantom mounted on a phantom white horse, leading a phantom or fairy 
cavalcade across the lake and land. A well-attested case of such an appari- 
tional appearance of the earl has been recorded by Miss Anne Baily, the 
percipient having been Teigue O'Neill, an old blacksmith whom she knew 
(see All the Year Round, New Series, iii. 495-6, London, 1870). And Moll 


Fennel (apparently her sister goddess or a variant of herself) 
lived on the top of Knock Fennel' (termed Finnen in a 
State Paper dated 1200). 

The Fairy Boat-Race. — * Different old peasants have told 
me that on clear calm moonlight nights in summer, fairy 
boats appear racing across Lough Gur. The boats come 
from the eastern side of the lake, and when they have arrived 
at Garrod Island, where the Desmond Castle lies in ruins, 
they vanish behind Knock Adoon. There are four of these 
phantom boats, and in each there are two men rowing and 
a woman steering. No sound is heard, though the seer can 
see the weird silvery splash of the oars and the churning of 
the water at the bows of the boats as they shoot along. It 
is evident that they are racing, because one boat gets ahead 
of the others, and all the rowers can be seen straining at the 
oars. Boats and occupants seem to be transparent, and you 

Riall, a young woman also known to Miss Baily, saw the phantom earl by 
himself, under very weird circumstances, by day, as she stood at the margin 
of the lake washing clothes (ib., p. 496). 

Some say that Aine's true dwelling-place is in her hill ; upon which on 
every St. John's Night the peasantry used to gather from all the immediate 
neighbourhood to view the moon (for Aine seems to have been a moon god- 
dess, like Diana), and then with torches (cliars) made of bunches of straw 
and hay tied on poles used to march in procession from the hill and after- 
wards run through cultivated fields and amongst the cattle. The underlying 
purpose of this latter ceremony probably was — as is the case in the Isle of 
Man and in Brittany (see pp. 1 24 n., 273), where corresponding fire-ceremonies 
surviving from an ancient agricultural cult are still celebrated — to exorcise 
the land from all evil spirits and witches in order that there may be good 
harvests and rich increase of flocks. Sometimes on such occasions the 
goddess herself has been seen leading the sacred procession (cf. the Bacchus 
cult among the ancient Greeks, who believed that the god himself led his 
worshippers in their sacred torch-light procession at night, he being like 
Aine in this respect, more or less connected with fertility in nature). One 
night some girls staying on the hill late were made to look through a magic 
ring by Aine, and lo the hill was crowded with the folk of the fairy goddess 
who before had been invisible. The peasants always said that Aine is 
* the best-hearted woman that ever lived ' (cf. David Fitzgerald, Popular 
Tales of Ireland, in Rev. Celt., iv. 185-92). 

In Silva Gadelica (ii. 347-8), Aine is a daughter of Eogabal, a king of 
the Tuatha De Danann, and her abode is within the sidh, named on her 
account 'Aine cliach, now Cnoc Aine, or Knockany '. In another passage 
we read that Manannan took Aine as his wife (ib., ii. 197). Also see in 
Silva Gadelica, ii, pp. 225, 576. 


cannot see exactly what their nature is. One old peasant 
told me that it is the shining brightness of the clothes on 
the phantom rowers and on the women who steer which 
makes them visible. 

* Another man, who is about forty years of age, and as far 
as I know of good habits, assures me that he also has seen 
this fairy boat-race, and that it can still be seen at the 
proper season.* 

The Bean-Tighe} — ' The Bean-tighe, the fairy housekeeper 
of the enchanted submerged castle of the Earl of Desmond, is 
supposed to appear sitting on an ancient earthen monument 
shaped like a great chair and hence called Suidheachan, the 
** Housekeeper's Little Seat," on Knock Adoon (Hill of the 
Fort), which juts out into the Lough. The Bean-tighe, as 
I have heard an old peasant tell the tale, was once asleep on 
her Seat, when the Buachailleen ^ or " Little Herd Boy " 

* ' In some local tales the Bean-tighe, or Bean a'tighe is termed Bean- 
sidhe (Banshee), and Bean Chaointe, or " wailing woman ", and is identified 
with Aine. In an elegy by Ferriter on one of the Fitzgeralds, we read : — 

Aine from her closely hid nest did awake, 
The woman of wailing from Gur's voicy lake. 

'Thomas O'Connellan, the great minstrel bard, some of whose com- 
positions are given by Hardiman, died at Lough Gur Castle about 1700, 
and was buried at New Church beside the lake. It is locally believed that 
Aine stood on a rock of Knock Adoon and " keened " O'Connellan whilst 
the funeral procession was passing from the castle to the place of burial.' — 
J. F. Lynch. 

A Banshee was traditionally attached to the Baily family of Lough 
Gur ; and one night at dead of night, when Miss Kitty Baily was dying 
of consumption, her two sisters, Miss Anne Baily and Miss Susan Baily, 
who were sitting in the death chamber, ' heard such sweet and melan- 
choly music as they had never heard before. It seemed to them like 
distant cathedral music. . . . The music was not in the house. ... It seemed 
to come through the windows of the old castle, high in the air.' But when 
Miss Anne, who went downstairs with a lighted candle to investigate 
the weird phenomenon, had approached the ruined castle she thought the 
music came from above the house ; ' and thus perplexed, and at last 
frightened, she returned.' Both sisters are on record as having distinctly 
heard the fairy music, and for a long time {All the Year Round, New Series, 
iii. 496-7 ; London, 1870). 

* ' The Buachailleen is most likely one of the many forms assumed by 
the shape-shifting Fer Fi, the Lough Gur Dwarf, who at Tara, according 
to the Dinnshenchas of Tuag Inbir (see Folk-Lore, iii ; and A. Nutt, Voyage 
of Bran, i. 195 ff.), took the shape of a woman ; and we may trace the tales 



stole her golden comb. When the Bean-tighe awoke and saw 
what had happened, she cast a curse upon the cattle of the 
Buachailleen, and soon all of them were dead, and then 
the " Little Herd Boy " himself died, but before his death 
he ordered the golden comb to be cast into the Lough.' ^ 

Lough Gur Fairies in General. — * The peasantry in the 
Lough Gur region commonly speak of the Good People or of 
the Kind People or of the Little People, their names for the 
fairies. The leprechaun indicates the place where hidden 
treasure is to be found. If the person to whom he reveals 
such a secret makes it known to a second person, the first 
person dies, or else no money is found : in some cases the 
money is changed into ivy leaves or into furze blossoms. 

* I am convinced that some of the older peasants still 
believe in fairies. I used to go out on the lake occasionally 
on moonlight nights, and an old woman supposed to be 
a " wise woman " (a seeress), hearing about my doing this, 
told me that under no circumstances should I continue the 
practice, for fear of " Them People " (the fairies). One 
evening in particular I was warned by her not to venture on 
the lake. She solemnly asserted that the " Powers of Dark- 
ness " were then abroad, and that it would be misfortune 
for me to be in their path.^ 

* Under ordinary circumstances, as a very close observer 
of the Lough Gur peasantry informs me, the old people will 

of Ceroid larla to Fer Fi, who, and not Ceroid, is believed by the oldest of 
the Lough Cur peasantry to be the owner of the lake. Fer Fi is the son 
of Eogabal of Sidh Eogabail, and hence brother to Aine. He is also foster- 
son of Manannan Mac Lir, and a Druid of the Tuatha De Danann (cf. 
Silva Gadelica,n. 225 ; also Dinnshenchas of Tuag Inbir). At Lough Cur 
various tales are told by the peasants concerning the Dwarf, and he is 
still stated by them to be the brother of Aine. For the sake of experi- 
ment I once spoke very disrespectfully of the Dwarf to John Punch, an 
old man, and he said to me in a frightened whisper : " Whisht ! he'll 
hear you." Edward Fitzgerald and other old men were very much afraid 
of the Dwarf.' — J. F. Lynch. 

* ' Compaxe the tale of Excalibur, the Sword of King Arthur, which 
King Arthur before his death ordered Sir Bedivere to cast into the lake 
whence it had come.' — J. F. Lynch. 

* ' It is commonly believed by young and old at Lough Cur that a human 
being is drowned in the Lake once every seven years, and that it is the 
Bean Fhionn, or " White Lady " who thus takes the person.' — J. F. Lynch. 


pray to the Saints, but if by any chance such prayers remain 
unanswered they then invoke other powers, the fairies, the 
goddesses Aine and Fennel, or other pagan deities, whom 
they seem to remember in a vague subconscious manner 
through tradition.' 

Testimony from a County Kerry Seer 

To another of my fellow students in Oxford, a native 
Irishman of County Kerry, I am indebted for the following 
evidence : — 

A Collective Vision of Spiritual Beings. — ' Some few weeks ' 
before Christmas, 1910, at midnight on a very dark night, 
I and another young man (who like myself was then about 
twenty-three years of age) were on horseback on our way 
home from Limerick. When near Listowel, we noticed a 
light about half a mile ahead. At first it seemed to be no 
more than a light in some house ; but as we came nearer 
to it and it was passing out of our direct line of vision we 
saw that it was moving up and down, to and fro, diminishing 
to a spark, then expanding into a yellow luminous flame. 
Before we came to Listowel we noticed two lights, about one 
hundred yards to our right, resembling the hght seen first. 
Suddenly each of these lights expanded into the same sort 
of yellow luminous flame, about six feet high by four feet 
broad. In the midst of each flame we saw a radiant being 
having human form. Presently the lights moved toward 
one another and made contact, whereupon the two beings 
in them were seen to be walking side by side. The beings' 
bodies were formed of a pure dazzling radiance, white like 
the radiance of the sun, and much brighter than the yellow 
light or aura surrounding them. So dazzling was the radiance, 
like a halo, round their heads that we could not distinguish 
the countenances of the beings ; we could only distinguish 
the general shape of their bodies ; though their heads were 
very clearly outlined because this halo-like radiance, which 
was the brightest light about them, seemed to radiate from 
or rest upon the head of each being. As we travelled on; 
a house intervened between us and the lights, and we saw 



no more of them. It was the first time we had ever seen 
such phenomena, and in our hurry to get home we were not 
wise enough to stop and make further examination. But 
ever since that night I have frequently seen, both in Ireland 
and in England, similar lights with spiritual beings in them.' 
(Cf. pp. 60 ff., ^T, 133, 155, 215, 483.) 

Reality of the Spiritual World. — ' Like my companion, who 
saw all that I saw of the first three lights, I formerly had 
always been a sceptic as to the existence of spirits ; now 
I know that there is a spiritual world. My brother, a phy- 
sician, had been equally sceptical until he saw, near our 
home at Listowel, similar lights containing spiritual beings 
and was obliged to admit the genuineness of the phenomena. 

' In whatever country we may be, I believe that we are 
for ever immersed in the spiritual world ; but most of us 
cannot perceive it on account of the unrefined nature of 
our physical bodies. Through meditation and psychical 
training one can come to see the spiritual world and its 
beings. We pass into the spirit realm at death and come 
back into the human world at birth ; and we continue to 
reincarnate until we have overcome all earthly desires and 
mortal appetites. Then the higher life is open to our con- 
sciousness and we cease to be human ; we become divine 
beings.' (Recorded in Oxford, England, August 12, 1911.) 


Introduction by Alexander Carmichael, Hon. LL.D. of 
the University of Edinburgh ; author of Carmina Gadelica. 

The belief in fairies was once common throughout Scot- 
land — Highland and Lowland. It is now much less pre- 
valent even in the Highlands and Islands, where such 
beliefs linger longer than they do in the Lowlands. But it 
still lives among the old people, and is privately entertained 
here and there even among younger people ; and some who 
hold the belief declare that they themselves have seen fairies. 
. Various theories have been advanced as to the origin of 


fairies and as to the belief in them. The most concrete form 
in which the beUef has been urged has been by the Rev. 
Robert Kirk, minister of Aberfoyle, in Perthshire.^ Another 
theory of the origin of fairies I took down in the island of 
Miunghlaidh (Minglay) ; and, though I have given it in 
Carmina Gadelica, it is sufficiently interesting to be quoted 
here. During October 1871, Roderick Macneill, known as 
* Ruaraidh mac Dhomhuil, then ninety-two years of age, 
told it in Gaelic to the late J. F. Campbell of Islay and the 
writer, when they were storm-stayed in the precipitous 
island of Miunghlaidh, Barra : — 

* The Proud Angel fomented a rebellion among the angels 
of heaven, where he had been a leading light. He declared 
that he would go and found a kingdom for himself. When 
going out at the door of heaven the Proud Angel brought 
prickly lightning and biting lightning out of the doorstep 
with his heels. Many angels followed him — so many that at 
last the Son called out, " Father ! Father ! the city is being 
emptied ! " whereupon the Father ordered that the gates 
of heaven and the gates of hell should be closed. This was 
instantly done. And those who were in were in, and those 
who were out were out ; while the hosts who had left 
heaven and had not reached hell flew into the holes of the 
earth, like the stormy petrels. These are the Fairy Folk — ever 
since doomed to live under the ground, and only allowed to 
emerge where and when the King permits. They are never 
allowed abroad on Thursday, that being Columba's Day ; 
nor on Friday, that being the Son's Day ; nor on Saturday, 
that being Mary's Day ; nor on Sunday, that being the 
Lord's Day. 

God be between me and every fairy. 

Every ill wish and every druidry ; 

To-day is Thursday on sea and land, 

I trust in the King that they do not hear me. 

* It was the belief of the Rev. Robert Kirk, as expressed by him in his 
Secret Commonwealth of Elves^ Fauns, and Fairies, that the fairy tribes are 
a distinct order of created beings possessing human-like intelligence and 
supernormal powers, who live and move about in this world invisible to 
all save men and women of the second-sight (see this study, pp. 89, 91 n). 


On certain nights when their hruthain (bowers) are open 
and their lamps are lit, and the song and the dance are 
moving merrily, the fairies may be heard singing light- 
heartedly : — 

Not of the seed of Adam are we. 
Nor is Abraham our father ; 
But of the seed of the Proud Angel, 
Driven forth from Heaven.' 

The fairies entered largely into the lives and into the 
folk-lore of the Highland people, and the following examples 
of things named after the fairies indicate the manner in 
which the fairies dominated the minds of the people of 
Gaeldom : — teine sith, ' fairy fire * (ignis fatuus) ; hreaca 
sith, ' fairy marks,' livid spots appearing on the faces of 
the dead or dying ; marcachd shith, ' fairy riding,' paralysis 
of the spine in animals, alleged to be brought on by the 
fairy mouse riding across the backs of animals while they 
are lying down ; piob shith, ' fairy pipe ' or * elfin pipe ', 
generally found in ancient underground houses ; miaran na 
mna sithe, ' the thimble of the fairy woman,' the fox-glove ; 
lion na mna sithe, * lint of the fairy woman,' fairy flax, said 
to be beneficial in certain illnesses ; and curachan na mna 
sithe, ' coracle of the fairy woman,' the shell of the blue 
valilla. In place-names sith, ' fairy,' is common. Glenshee, 
in Perthshire, is said to have been full of fairies, but the 
screech of the steam-whistle frightened them underground. 
/ There is scarcely a district of the Highlands without its 
fairy knoll, generally the greenest hillock in the place .\ 
* The black chanter of Clan Chattan ' is said to have been 
given to a famous Macpherson piper by a fairy woman who 
loved him ; and the Mackays have a flag said to have been 
given to a Mackay by a fairy sweetheart. The well-known 
fairy flag of Dunvegan is said to have been given to a Macleod 
of Macleod by a fairy woman ; and the Macrimmons of 
Bororaig, pipers to the Macleods of Macleod, had a chanter 
called ^ Sionnsair airgid na mna sithe \ ' the silver chanter of 
the fairy woman.* A family in North Uist is known as 
Dubh-sitht ' Black fairy,' from a tradition that the family 


had been familiar with the fairies in their secret flights and 
nightly migrations. 

Donald Macalastair, seventy-nine years of age, crofter, 
Druim-a-ghinnir, Arran, told me, in the year 1895, the 
following story in Gaelic : — * The fairies were dwelling 
in the knoll, and they had a near neighbour who used to 
visit them in their home. The man used to observe the 
ways of the fairies and to do as they did. The fairies took 
a journey upon them to go to Ireland, and the man took 
upon him to go with them. Every single fairy of them 
caught a ragwort and went astride it, and they were pell-mell, 
every knee of them across the Irish Ocean in an instant, and 
across the Irish Ocean was the man after them, astride 
a ragwort like one of themselves. A little wee tiny fairy 
shouted and asked were they all ready, and all the others 
replied that they were, and the little fairy called out : — 

My king at my head, 
Going across in my haste, 
On the crests of the waves, 
To Ireland. 

" Follow me," said the king of the fairies, and away they went 
across the Irish Ocean, every mother's son of them astride his 
ragwort. Macuga (Cook) did not know on earth how he would 
return to his native land, but he leapt upon the ragwort as he 
saw the fairies do, and he called as he heard them call, and in 
an instant he was back in Arran. But he had got enough of the 
fairies on this trip itself, and he never went with them again/ 
The fairies were wont to take away infants and their 
mothers, and many precautions were taken to safeguard 
them till purification and baptism took place, when the 
fairy power became ineffective. Placing iron about the bed, 
burning leather in the room, giving mother and child the 
milk of a cow which had eaten of the mothan, pearl-wort 
(Pinguicula vulgaris), a plant of virtue, and similar means 
were taken to ensure their safety. If the watching-women 
neglected these precautions, the mother or child or both 
were spirited away to the fairy bower. Many stories are 
current on this subject. 


Sometimes the fairies helped human beings with their 
work, coming in at night to finish the spinning or the house- 
work, or to thresh the farmer's corn or fan his grain. On 
such occasions they must not be molested nor interfered 
with, even in gratitude. If presented with a garment they 
will go away and work no more. This method of getting 
rid of them is often resorted to, as it is not easy always to 
find work for them to do. 

Bean chaol a chot uaine 's na gruaige buidhe, ' the slender 
woman of the green kirtle and of the yellow hair,' is 
wise of head and deft of hand. She can convert the white 
water of the rill into rich red wine and the threads of the 
spiders into a tartan plaid. From the stalk of the fairy reed 
she can bring the music of the lull of the peace and of the 
repose, however active the brain and lithe the limb ; and she 
can rouse to mirth and merriment, and to the dance, men and 
women, however dolorous their condition. From the bower 
could be heard the pipe and the song and the voice of 
laughter as the fairies ' sett ' and reeled in the mazes of the 
dance. Sometimes a man hearing the merry music and 
seeing the wonderful light within would be tempted to go 
in and join them, but woe to him if he omitted to leave 
a piece of iron at the door of the bower on entering, for the 
cunning fairies would close the door and the man would find 
no egress. There he would dance for years — but to him the 
years were as one day — while his wife and family mourned 
him as dead. 

The flint arrow-heads so much prized by antiquarians are 
called in the Highlands Saighead sith, fairy arrows. They 
are said to have been thrown by the fairies at the sons and 
daughters of men. The writer possesses one which was 
thrown at his own maid-servant one night when she went 
to the peatstack for peats. She was aware of something 
whizzing through the silent air, passing through her hair, 
grazing her ear and falling at her feet. Stooping in the 
bright moonlight the girl picked up a fairy arrow ! 

* But faith is dead — such things do not happen now,' said 
a courteous informant. If not quite dead it is almost dead. 


hastened by the shifting of population, the establishment of 
means of communication, the influx of tourists, and the scorn 
of the more materialistic of the incomers and of the people 

October 1910. 

Aberfoyle, the Country of Robert Kirk 

My first hunt for fairies in Scotland began at Aberfoyle, 
where the Highlands and the Lowlands meet, and in the 
very place where Robert Kirk, the minister of Aberfoyle, 
was taken by them, in the year 1692. The minister spent 
a large part of his time studying the ways of the ' good people *, 
3,nd he must have been able to see them, for he was a seventh 
son. Mrs. J. MacGregor, who keeps the key to the old 
churchyard where there is a tomb to Kirk, though many say 
there is nothing in it but a coffin filled with stones, told me 
that Kirk was taken into the Fairy Knoll, which she pointed 
to just across a little valley in front of us, and is there yet, 
for the hill is full of caverns, and in them the * good people * 
have their homes. And she added that Kirk appeared to 
a relative of his after he was taken, and said that he was in 
the power of the * good people ', and couldn't get away. 
* But,' says he, * I can be set free if you will have my cousin 
do what I tell him when I appear again at the christening 
of my child in the parsonage.' According to Mr. Andrew 
Lang, who reports the same tradition in more detail in his 
admirable Introduction to The Secret Commonwealth, the 
cousin was Grahame of Duchray, and the thing he was to do 
was to throw a dagger over Kirk's head. Grahame was at 
hand at the christening of the posthumous child, but was so 
astonished to see Kirk appear as Kirk said he would, that he 
did not throw the dagger, and so Kirk became a perpetual 
prisoner of the * good people '. 

After having visited Kirk's tomb, I called on the Rev. 
William M. Taylor, the present successor of Kirk, and, as 
we sat together in the very room where Kirk must have 
written his Secret Commonwealth, he told me that tradition 



reports Kirk as having been taken by the fairies while he 
was walking on their hill, which is but a short way from 
the parsonage. ' At the time of his disappearance, people 
said he was taken because the fairies were displeased with 
him for prying into their secrets. At all events, it seems 
likely that Kirk was taken ill very suddenly with something 
like apoplexy while on the Fairy Knoll, and died there. 
I have searched the presbytery books, and find no record of 
how Kirk's death really took place ; but of course there is 
not the least doubt of his body being in the grave.' So 
thus, according to Mr. Taylor, we are to conclude that if the 
fairies carried off anything, it must have been the spirit or 
soul of Kirk. I talked with others round Aberfoyle about 
Kirk, and some would have it that his body and soul were 
both taken, and that what was buried was no corpse at all. 
Mrs. Margaret MacGregor, one of the few Gaelic speakers 
of the old school left in Aberfoyle, holds another opinion, 
for she said to me, ' Nothing could be surer than that the 
good people took Kirk's spirit only.' 

In the Aberfoyle country, the Fairy-Faith, save for the 
stories about Kirk, which will probably persist for a long 
time yet, is rapidly passing. In fact it is almost forgotten 
now. Up to thirty years ago, as Mr. Taylor explained, before 
the railway reached Aberfoyle, belief in fairies was much 
more common. Nowadays, he says, there is no real fairy- 
lore among the peasants ; fifty to sixty years ago there was. 
And in his opinion, ' the fairy people of three hundred years 
ago in Scotland were a distinct race by themselves. They 
had never been human beings. The belief in them was 
a survival of paganism, and not at all an outgrowth of 
Christian belief in angelic hosts.' 

A Scotch Minister's Testimony 

A Protestant minister of Scotland will be our next wit- 
ness. He is a native of Ross-shire, though he draws many 
of his stories from the Western Hebrides, where his calling 
has placed him. Because he speaks from personal know- 
ledge of the living Fairy-Faith as it was in his boyhood and 


is now, and chiefly because he has had the rare privilege of 
conscious contact with the fairy world, his testimony is 
of the highest value. 

Reality of Fairies. — * When I was a boy I was a firm 
believer in fairies ; and now as a Christian minister I believe 
in the possibiHty and also the reality of these spiritual 
orders, but I wish only to know those orders which belong 
to the realm of grace. It is very certain that they exist. 
I have been in a state of ecstasy, and have seen spiritual 
beings which form these orders.^ 

* I believe in the actuality of evil spirits ; but people in 
the Highlands having put aside paganism, evil spirits are 

' not seen now.' 

This explanation was offered of how fairies may exist and 
yet be invisible : — * Our Saviour became invisible though 
in the body ; and, as the Scriptures suggest, I suppose we 
are obliged to concede a similar power of invisibility to 
spirits as well, good and evil ones alike.' 

Precautions against Fairies. — * I remember how an old 
woman pulled me out of a fairy ring to save me from being 

* If a mother takes some bindweed and places it burnt 
at the ends over her babe's cradle, the fairies have no power 
over the child. The bindweed is a common roadside 

' As a boy, I saw two old women passing a babe over red- 
hot coals, and then drop some of the cinders in a cup of 
water and give the water to the babe to drink, in order to 
cure it of a fairy stroke.* 

Fairy Fights on Halloween. — ' It is a common belief now 
that on Halloween the fairies, or the fairy hosts, have fights. 

* The Rev. Robert Kirk, in his Secret Commonwealth ^ defines the second- 
sight, which enabled him to see the * good people ', as * a rapture, transport, 
and sort of death '. He and our present witness came into the world 
with this abnormal faculty ; but there is the remarkable case to record of 
the late Father Allen Macdonald, who during a residence of twenty years 
on the tiny and isolated Isle of Erisgey, Western Hebrides, acquired the 
second-sight, and was able some years before he died there (in 1905) to 
exercise it as freely as though he had been a natural-born seer. 



Lichens on rocks after there has been a frost get yellowish- 
red, and then when they thaw and the moisture spreads out 
from them the rocks are a bright red ; and this bright red 
is said to be the blood of the fairies after one of their battles.' 

Fairies and the Hump-back. — The following story by the 
present witness is curious, for it is the same story of a hump- 
back which is so widespread. The fact that in Scotland the 
hump is removed or added by fairies as it is in Ireland, in 
Cornwall by pixies, and in Brittany by corrigans, goes far to 
prove the essential identity of these three orders of beings. 
The story comes from one of the remote Western Hebrides, 
Benbecula : — * A man who was a hump-back once met the 
fairies dancing, and danced with their queen ; and he sang 
with them, " Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday," so well that 
they took off his hump, and he returned home a straight- 
bodied man. Then a tailor went past the same place, and 
was also admitted by the fairies to their dance. He caught 
the fairy queen by the waist, and she resented his familiarity. 
And in singing he added "Thursday " to their song and 
spoilt it. To pay the tailor for his rudeness and ill manners, 
the dancers took up the hump they had just removed from 
the first man and clapped it on his back, and the conceited 
fellow went home a hump-back.' 

Libations to Fairies. — * An elder in my church knew a 
woman who was accustomed, in milking her cows, to offer 
libations to the fairies.^ The woman was later converted to 
Christ and gave up the practice, and as a result one of her 
cows was taken by the fairies. Then she revived the practice. 

' The fairy queen who watches over cows is called Grua- 
gach in the Islands, and she is often seen. In pouring 
libations to her and her fairies various kinds of stones, 
usually with hollows in them, are used.^ 

* In his note to Le Chant des Trepasses {Barzaz Breiz, p. 507), Villemarque 
reports that in some localities in I>ower Brittany on All Saints Night 
libations of milk are poured over the tombs of the dead. This is proof 
that the nature of fairies in Scotland and of the dead in Brittany is 
thought to be the same. 

^ ' In many parts of the Highlands, where the same deity is known, the 
stone into which women poured the libation of milk is called Leac na 


* In Lewis libations are poured to the goddess [or god] 
of the sea, called Shoney} in order to bring in seaweed. 
Until modern times in lona similar libations were poured to 
a god corresponding to Neptune.' 

In the Highlands 

I had the pleasure as well as the great privilege of setting 
out from Inverness on a bright crisp September morning in 
company with Dr. Alexander Carmichael, the well-known 
folk-lorist of Scotland, to study the Fairy-Faith as it exists 
now in the Highlands round Tomatin, a small country 
village about twenty miles distant. We departed by an 
early train ; and soon reaching the Tomatin country began 
our search — Dr. Carmichael for evidence regarding rare and 
curious Scotch beliefs connected with folk-magic, such as 
blood-stopping at a distance and removing motes in the 
eye at a distance, and I for Highland ghosts and fairies. 

Our first experience was with an old man whom we met 
on the road between the railway station and the post office, 
who could speak only Gaelic. Dr. Carmichael talked with 
him awhile, and then asked him about fairies, and he said 
there were some living in a cave some way off, but as the 
distance was rather too far we decided not to call on them. 
Then we went on to see the postmaster, Mr. John Mac- 
Dougall, and he told us that in his boyhood the country-folk 

Gruagaich, "Flag-stone of the Gruagach." If the libation was omitted in 
the evening, the best cow in the fold would be found dead in the morning.' 
— Alexander Carmichael. 

^ Dr. George Henderson, in The Norse Influence on Celtic Scotland 
(Glasgow, 1901), p. loi, says : — ' Shony was a sea-god in Lewis, where ale 
was sacrificed to him at Hallowtide. After coming to the church of St. 
Mulvay at night a man was sent to wade into the sea, saying : " Shony, 
I give you this cup of ale hoping that you will be so kind as to give us 
plenty of sea-ware for enriching our ground the ensuing year." As 6 from 
Norse would become o, and /w becomes mm, one thinks of Sjofn, one of the 
goddesses in the Edda. In any case the word is Norse.' It seems, there- 
fore, that the Celtic stock in Lewis have adopted the name Shony or 
Shoneyy and possibly also the god it designates, through contact with 
Norsemen ; but, at all events, they have assimilated him to their own 
fairy pantheon, as we can see in their celebrating special libations to him 
on the ancient Celtic feast of the dead and fairies, Halloween, 


round Tomatin believed thoroughly in fairies. He said 
they thought of them as a race of spirits capable of making 
themselves visible to mortals, as living in underground 
places, as taking fine healthy babes and leaving changelings 
in their place. These changelings would waste away and die 
in a short time after being left. So firmly did the old people 
believe in fairies then that they would ridicule a person for 
not believing. And now quite the reverse state has come 
about .^ 

The Testimony of John Dunbar of Invereen 

We talked with other Highlanders in the country round 
Tomatin, and heard only echoes, mostly fragmentary, of 
what their forefathers used to believe about fairies. But at 
Invereen we discovered John Dunbar, a Highlander, who 
really knows the Fairy-Faith and is not ashamed to explain 
it. Speaking partly from experience and partly from what 
he has heard his parents relate concerning the * good people ', 
he said : — 

The Sheep and the Fairy-Hunting. — * I believe people saw 
fairies, but I think one reason no one sees them now is 
because every place in this parish where they used to appear 
has been put into sheep, and deer, and grouse, and shooting. 
According to tradition, Coig na Fearn is the place where the 
last fairy was seen in this country. Before the big sheep 
came, the fairies are supposed to have had a premonition 
that their domains were to be violated by them. A story is 
told of a fight between the sheep and fairies, or else of 
the fairies hunting the sheep : — James MacQueen, who could 
traffic with the fairies, whom he regarded as ghosts or spirits, 
one night on his old place, which now is in sheep, was lying 
down all alone and heard a small and big barking of dogs, 
and a small and big bleating of sheep, though no sheep were 
there then. It was the fairy-hunting he heard. " I put an 

• • This, as Dr. Carmichael told me, I believe very justly represents the 
present state of folk-lore in many parts of the Highlands. There are, it is 
true, old men and women here and there who know much about fairies, 
but they, fearing the ridicule of a younger and ' educated ' generation, are 
generally unwilling to admit any belief in fairies. 


axe under my head and I had no fear therefore," he always 
repeated when teUing the story. I beheve the man saw and 
heard something. And MacQueen used to aid the fairies, 
and on that account, as he was in the habit of saying, he 
always found more meal in his chest than he thought 
he had.' 

Fairies. — * My grandmother believed firmly in fairies, and 
I have heard her tell a good many stories about them. They 
were a small people dressed in green, and had dwellings 
underground in dry spots. Fairies were often heard in the 
hills over there (pointing) , and I believe something was there. 
They were awful for music, and used to be heard very often 
playing the bagpipes. . A woman wouldn't go out in the dark 
after giving birth to a child before the child was christened, 
so as not to give the fairies power over her or the child. 
And I have heard people say that if fairies were refused 
milk and meat they would take a horse or a cow ; and that 
if well treated they would repay all gifts.' 

Time in Fairyland. — ' People would be twenty years in 
Fairyland and it wouldn't seem more than a night. A bride- 
groom who was taken on his wedding-day was in Fairyland 
for many generations, and, coming back, thought it was next 
morning. He asked where all the wedding-guests were, and 
found only one old woman who remembered the wedding.* 

Highland Legend of the Dead. — As I have found to be the 
case in all Celtic countries equally, fairy stories nearly 
always, in accordance with the law of psychology known as 

* the association of ideas ', give place to or are blended 
with legends of the dead. This is an important factor for 
the Psychological Theory. And what follows proves the 
same ideas to be present to the mind of Mr. Dunbar : — 

* Some people after death are seen in their old haunts ; no ^ 
mistake about it. A bailiff had false corn and meal measures, ^^^^-^ 
and so after he died he came back to his daughter and told 

her he could have no peace until the measures were burned. 
She complied with her father's wish, and his spirit was never 
seen again. I have known also of phantom funerals of people 
who died soon afterwards being seen on the road at night.' 


To THE Western Hebrides 

From Inverness I began my journey to the Western 
Hebrides. While I waited for the steamer to take me from 
Kyle to the Isle of Skye, an old man with whom I talked on 
the docks said this about Neill Mackintosh, of Black Island :— 
* You can't argue with the old man that he hasn't seen fairies. 
He can tell you all about them.' 

Evidence from the Isle of Skye 

Miss Frances Tolmie, who was born at Uignish, Isle of Skye, 
and has lived many years in the isle in close touch with some 
of its oldest folk, contributes, from Edinburgh, the evidence 
which follows. The first two tales were told in the parish 
of Minginish a number of years ago by Mary Macdonald, 
a goat-herd, and have their setting in the region of the 
Koolian ^ range of mountains on the west side of Skye. 

The Fatal Peat Ember. — * An aged nurse who had fallen 
fast asleep as she sat by the fire, was holding on her knees 
a newly-born babe. The mother, who lay in bed gazing 
dreamily, was astonished to see three strange little women 
enter the dwelling. They approached the unconscious child, 
and she who seemed to be their leader was on the point of 
lifting it off the nurse's lap, when the third exclaimed : — 
** Oh ! let us leave this one with her as we have already 
taken so many ! " " So be it," replied the senior of the 
party in a tone of displeasure, " but when that peat now 
burning on the hearth shall be consumed, her life will surely 
come to an end." Then the three little figures passed out. 
The good wife, recognizing them to be fairies, sprang from 
her bed and poured over the fire all the water she could find, 
and extinguished the half-burnt ember. This she wrapped 

* The following note by Miss Tolmie is of great interest and value, 
especially when one bears in mind Cuchulainn's traditional relation with 
Skye (see p. 4) : — ' The Koolian range should never be written Cu-chullin. 
The name is written here with a K, to ensure its being correctly uttered 
and written. It is probably a Norse word ; but, as yet, a satisfactory 
explanation of its origin and meaning has not been published. In Gaelic 
the range is always alluded to (in the masculine singular) as the Koolian. 


carefully in a piece of cloth and deposited at the very bottom 
of a large chest, which afterwards she always kept locked. 

' Years passed, and the babe grew into a beautiful young 
woman. In the course of time she was betrothed ; and, 
according to custom, not appearing in public at church on 
the Sunday preceding the day appointed for her marriage, 
remained at home alone. To amuse herself, she began to 
search the contents of all the keeping-places in the house, 
and came at last to the chest containing the peat ember. 
In her haste, the good mother had that day forgotten the 
key of the chest, which was now in the lock. At the bottom 
of the chest the girl found a curious packet containing 
nothing but a morsel of peat, and this apparently useless 
thing she tossed away into the fire. When the peat was well 
kindled the young girl began to feel very ill, and when her 
mother returned was dying. The open chest and the blazing 
peat explained the cause of the calamity. The fairy's pre- 
diction was fulfilled.' 

Results of Refusing Fairy Hospitality. — ' Two women were 
walking toward the Point when one of them, hearing churning 
going on under a hillock, expressed aloud a wish for some butter- 
milk. No sooner had she spoken than a very small figure of 
a woman came out with a bowlful and offered it to her, but 
the thirsty woman, ignorant of fairy customs and the penalty 
attending their infringement, declined the kind offer of re- 
freshment, and immediately found herself a prisoner in the 
hillock. She was led to an apartment containing a chest full 
of meal and a great bag of wool, and was told by the fairy 
that when she had eaten all the meal and spun all the wool 
she would be free to return to her home. The prisoner at 
once set herself to eating and spinning assiduously, but with- 
out apparent result, and despairing of completing the task 
consulted an old man of very sad countenance who had long 
been a captive in the hillock. He willingly gave her his 
advice, which was to wet her left eye with saliva each morn- 
ing before she settled down to her task. She followed this 
advice, and gradually the wool and the meal were exhausted. 
Then the fairy granted her freedom, but in doing so cursed 



the old man, and said that she had it in her power to keep 
him in the hillock for ever/ 

The Fairies' * Waulking' (Fulling). — * At Ebost, in Braca- 
dale, an old woman was living in a little hut, with no com- 
panion save a wise cat. As we talked, she expressed her 
wonder that no fairies are ever seen or heard nowadays. She 
could remember hearing her father tell how he, when a herd- 
boy, had heard the fairies singing a "waulking" song in 
Dun-Osdale, an ancient and ruined round tower in the 
parish of Duirinish, and not far from Heleval mhor (great) 
and Heleval bheag (less) — two hills occasionally alluded to 
as " Macleod's Tables ". The youth was lying on the grass- 
grown summit of the ruin, and heard them distinctly. As 
if with exultation, one voice took the verse and then the 
whole company joined in the following chorus : " Ho f 
fir-e ! fair-e, foirm I Ho I Fair-eag-an an eld ! (Ho ! well 
done ! Grand ! Ho ! bravo the web [of homespun] ! " * 

Crodh Chailean, — ' This tale was related by Mr. Neil 
Macleod, the bard of Skye : — " Colin was a gentleman of 
Clan Campbell in Perthshire, who was married to a beautiful 
maiden whom the fairies carried off on her marriage-day, and 
on whom they cast a spell which rendered her invisible for a 
day and a year. She came regularly every day to milk the cows 
of her sorrowing husband, and sang sweetly to them while she 
milked, but he never once had the pleasure of beholding her, 
though he could hear perfectly what she sang. At the expiry 
of the year she was, to his great joy, restored to him." ' ^ 

* Dr. Alexander Carmichael found that the scene of this widespread tale 
is variously laid, in Argyll, in Perth, in Inverness, and in other counties 
of the Highlands. From his own collection of folk-songs he contributes 
the following verses to illustrate the song (existing in numerous versions), 
which the maiden while invisible used to sing to the cows of Colin : — 
Crodh Chailean ! crodh Chailean ! 
Crodh Chailean mo ghaoil, 
Crodh Chailean mo chridhe. 
Air lighe cheare fraoish. 

(Cows of Colin ! cows of Colin I 
Cows of Colin of my love. 
Cows of Colin of my heart, 
In colour of the heather-hen.) 

In one of Dr. Carmichael's versions, ' Colin 's wife and her infant child had 
been lifted away by the fairies to a fairy bower in the glen between the 


Fairy Legend of the Macleod Family. — * There is a legend 
told of the Macleod family : — Soon after the heir of the 
Macleods was born, a beautiful woman in wonderful raiment, 
who was a fairy woman or banshee (there were joyous as 
well as mourning banshees) appeared at the castle, and went 
directly to the babe's cradle. She took up the babe and 
chanted over it a series of verses, and each verse had its own 
melody. The verses foretold the future manhood of the 
young child, and acted as a protective charm over its life. 
Then she put the babe back into its cradle, and, going out, 
disappeared across the moorlands. 

* For many generations it was a custom in the Macleod 
family that whoever was the nurse of the heir must sing 
those verses as the fairy woman had sung them. After 
a time the song was forgotten, but at a later period it was 
partially recovered, and to-day it is one of the proud folk- 
lore heritages of the Macleod family.' ^ 

Origin and Nature of the Fairy-Faith, — Finally, with 
respect to the origin and nature of the Scotch Fairy-Faith, 
Miss Tolmie states : — * As a child I was not permitted to 
hear about fairies. At twenty I was seeking and trying to 
understand the beliefs of my fathers in the light of modern 
ideas. I was very determined not to lose the past. 

* The fairy-lore originated in a cultured class in very 
ancient times. The peasants inherited it ; they did not 
invent it. With the loss of Gaelic in our times came the 
loss of folk-ideals. The classical and English influences com- 
bined had a killing effect ; so that the instinctive religious 
feeling which used to be among our people when they kept 
alive the fairy-traditions is dead. We have intellectually- 
constructed creeds and doctrines which take its place. 

* We always thought of fairies as mysterious little beings 

hills.' There she was kept nursing the babes which the fairies had stolen, 
until ' upon Hallow Eve, when all the bowers were open ', Colin by 
placing a steel tinder above the lintel of the door to the fairy bower was 
enabled to enter the bower and in safety lead forth his wife and child. 

* In this beautiful fairy legend we recognize the fairy woman as one of 
the Tuatha De Danann-like fairies — one of the women of the Sidhe, as 
Irish seers call them. 



living in hills. They were capricious and irritable, but not 
wicked. They could do a good turn as well as a bad one. 
They were not aerial, but had bodies which they could make 
invisible ; and they could make human bodies invisible in 
the same way. Besides their hollow knolls and mounds there 
seemed to be a subterranean world in which they also lived, 
where things are like what they are in this world.' 

The Isle of Barra,i Western Hebrides 
We pass from Cuchulainn's beautiful island to what is 
now the most Celtic part of Scotland — the Western Hebrides, 
where the ancient life is lived yet, and where the people have 
more than a faith in spirits and fairies. And no one of the 
Western Hebrides, perhaps excepting the tiny island of 
Erisgey, has changed less during the last five hundred years 
than Barra. v^ 

Our Barra guide and interpreter, Michael Buchanan, a 
native and a life-long resident of Barra, is seventy years 
old, yet as strong and active as a city man at fifty. He 
knows intimately every old man on the island, and as he 
was able to draw them out on the subject of the ' good 
people ' as no stranger could do, I was quite willing, as well 
as obliged on account of the Scotch Gaelic, to let him act 

* It is interesting to know that the present inhabitants of Barra, or at 
least most of them, are the descendants of Irish colonists who belonged 
to the clan Eoichidh of County Cork, and who emigrated from there to 
Barra in A. d. 917, They brought with them their old customs and beliefs, 
and in their isolation their children have kept these things alive in almost 
their primitive Celtic purity. For example, besides their belief in fairies, 
May Day, Baaltine, and November Eve are still rigorously observed in the 
pagan way, and so is Easter — for it, too, before being claimed by Chris- 
tianity, was a sun festival. And how beautiful it is in this age to see the 
youths and maidens and some of the elders of these simple-hearted Chris- 
tian fisher-folk climb to the rocky heights of their little island-home on 
Easter morn to salute the sun as it rises out of the mountains to the east, 
and to hear them say that the sun dances with joy that morning because 
the Christ is risen. In a similar way they salute the new moon, making 
as they do so the sign of the cross. Finn Barr is said to have been a County 
Cork man of great sanctity ; and he probably came to Barra with the 
colony, for he is the patron saint of the island, and hence its name. (To 
my friend, Mr. Michael Buchanan, of Barra, I am indebted for this history 
and these traditions of his native isle.) 


on my behalf in all my collecting on Barra. Mr. Buchanan 
is the author of a little book called The MacNeils of Barra 
Genealogy, published in the year 1902. He was the official 
interpreter before the Commission of Inquiry which was 
appointed by the British Parliament in 1883 to search into 
the oppression of landlordism in the Highlands and Islands, 
and he acted in the same capacity before the Crofters' Com- 
mission and the Deer-Forest Commission. We therefore feel 
perfectly safe in allowing him to present, before our jury 
trying the Fairy-Faith, the evidence of the Gaelic-speaking 
witnesses from Barra. 

John MacNeil's Testimony 

We met the first of the Barra witnesses on the top of 
a rocky hill, where the road from Castlebay passes. He was 
carrying on his back a sack of sand heavy enough for a 
college athlete, and he an old man between seventy and 
eighty years of age. Michael Buchanan has known John 
MacNeil all his life, for they were boys together on the 
island ; and there is not much difference between them in 
age, our interpreter being the younger. Then the three of 
us sat down on a grassy knoll, all the world like a fairy 
knoll, though it was not ; and when pipes were lit and the 
weather had been discussed, there was introduced the subject 
of the * good people ' — all in Gaelic, for our witness now 
about to testify knows no English — and what John MacNeil 
said is thus interpreted by Michael Buchanan : — 

A Fairy's Visit. — * Yes, I have ' (in answer to a question 
if he had heard of people being taken by the ' good people ' or 
fairies) . ' A fairy woman visited the house of a young wife 
here in Barra, and the young wife had her baby on her breast 
at the time. The first words uttered by the fairy woman 
were, ** Heavy is your child ; " and the wife answered, 
" Light is everybody who lives the longest." " Were it not 
that you have answered my question," said the fairy 
woman, " and understood my meaning, you should have 
been less your child." And then the fairy woman departed.' 

Fairy-Singing. — * My mother, and two other women well 

> t 

' / r 

( f ■ 

• ♦ *. 

• » * 

ao2 . .' '-::'- ' TilE 1:IVING FAIRY-FAITH sect, i 

known here in Barra, went to a hill one day to look after 
their sheep, and, a thick fog coming on, they had to rest 
awhile. They then sat down upon a knoll and began to 
sing a walking (cloth- working) song, as follows : — " It is 
early to-day that I have risen ; " and, as they sang, a fairy 
woman in the rocks responded to their song with one of 
her own.' 

Nature of Fairies. — Then the question was asked if fairies 
were men or spirits, and this is the reply : — * I never saw 
any myself, and so cannot tell, but they must be spirits 
from all that the old people tell about them, or else how 
could they appear and disappear so suddenly ? The old 
people said they didn't know if fairies were flesh and blood, 
or spirits. They saw them as men of more diminutive 
stature than our race. I heard my father say that fairies 
used to come and speak to natural people, and then vanish 
while one was looking at them. Fairy women used to go 
into houses and talk and then vanish. The general belief 
was that the fairies were spirits who could make themselves 
seen or not seen at will. And when they took people they 
took body and soul together.' 

The Testimony of John Campbell, Ninety-four 

Years Old 

Our next witness from Barra is John Campbell, who is 
ninety-four years old, yet clear-headed. He was born on 
Barra at Sgalary, and lives near there now at Breuvaig. We 
were on our way to call at his home, when we met him 
coming on the road, with a cane in each hand and a small 
sack hanging from one of them. Michael saluted him as an 
old acquaintance, and then we all sat down on a big boulder 
in the warm sunshine beside the road to talk. The first thing 
John wanted was tobacco, and when this was supplied we 
gradually led from one subject to another until he was 
talking about fairies. And this is what he said about 
them : — 

The Fairy and the Fountain. — * I had a companion by the 
name of James Galbraith, who was drowned about forty 


years ago, and one time he was crossing from the west side 
of the island to the east side, to the township called Sgalary, 
and feeling thirsty took a drink out of a spring well on the 
mountain- side. After he had taken a drink, he looked about 
him and saw a woman clad in green, and imagined that no 
woman would be clad in such a colour except a fairy woman. 
He went on his way, and when he hadn't gone far, looked 
back, and, as he looked, saw the woman vanish out of his 
sight. He afterwards reported the incident at his father's 
house in Sgalary, and his father said he also had seen a 
woman clad in clothes of green at the same place some 
nights before.' 

A Stepson Pitied by the Fairies. — * I heard my father say 
that a neighbour of his father, that is of my grandfather, 
was married twice, and had three children from the first 
marriage, and when married for the second time, a son and 
daughter. His second wife did not seem to be kind enough 
to the children of the first wife, neglecting their food and 
clothing and keeping them constantly at hard work in the 
fields and at herding. 

' One morning when the man and his second wife were 
returning from mass they passed the pasture where their 
cows were grazing and heard the enjoyable skirrels of the 
bagpipes. The father said, " What may this be ? " and 
going off the road found the eldest son of the first wife 
playing the bagpipes to his heart's pleasure ; and asked him 
earnestly, " How did you come to play the bagpipes so 
suddenly, or where did you get this splendid pair of bag- 
pipes ? '* The boy replied, " An old man came to me while 
I was in the action of roasting pots in a pit-fire and said, 
' Your step-mother is bad to you and in ill-will towards 
you.' I told the old man I was sensible that that was the 
case, and then he said to me, * If I give you a trade will 
you be inclined to follow it ? ' I said yes, and the old man 
then continued, * How would you like to be a piper by 
trade ? ' * I would gladly become a piper,' says I, ' but what 
am I to do without the bagpipes and the tunes to play ? ' 
* I'll supply the bagpipes,' he said, * and as long as you have 


them you'll never want for the most delightful tunes.* " 
The male descendants of the boy in question were all famous 
pipers thereafter, and the last of them was a piper to the 
late Cluny MacPherson of Cluny.' 

Nature of Fairies. — At this point, Michael turned the 
trend of John's thoughts to the nature of fairies, with the 
following result : — * The general belief of the people here 
during my father's lifetime was that the fairies were more of 
the nature of spirits than of men made of flesh and blood, 
but that they so appeared to the naked eye that no difference 
could be marked in their forms from that of any human 
being, except that they were more diminutive. I have heard 
my father say it was the case that fairy women used to take 
away children from their cradles and leave different children 
in their places, and that these children who were left would 
turn out to be old men. 

* At Barra Head, a fairy woman used to come to a man's 
window almost every night as though looking to see if the 
family was home. The man grew suspicious, and decided 
the fairy woman was watching her chance to steal his wife, 
so he proposed a plan. It was then and still is the custom 
after thatching a house to rope it across with heather-spun 
ropes, and, at the time, the man was busy spinning some of 
them ; and he told his wife to take his place that night to 
spin the heather-rope, and said he would take her spinning- 
wheel. They were thus placed when the fairy woman made 
the usual look in at the window, and she seeing that her 
intention was understood, said to the man, ** You are your- 
self at the spinning-wheel and your wife is spinning the 

*I have heard it said that the fairies live in knolls on 
a higher level than that of the ground in general, and that 
fairy songs are heard from the faces of high rocks. The 
fairies of the air (the fairy or spirit hosts) are different from 
those in the rocks. A man whom I've seen, Roderick Mac- 
Neil, was lifted by the hosts and left three miles from where 
he was taken up. The hosts went at about midnight. A 
man awake at midnight is in danger. Cows and horses are 


sometimes shot in place of men ' (and why, will be explained 
by later witnesses). 

Father MacDonald's Opinions. — We then asked about the 
late Rev. Donald MacDonald, who had the reputation of 
knowing all about fairies and spirits when he lived here in 
these islands, and John said : — ' I have heard my wife say 
that she questioned Father MacDonald, who was then a 
parish priest here in Barra, and for whom she was a house- 
keeper, if it was possible that such beings or spirits as fairies 
were in existence. He said " Yes ", and that they were those 
who left Heaven after the fallen angels ; and that those 
going out after the fallen angels had gone out were so 
numerous and kept going so long that St. Michael notified 
Christ that the throne was fast emptying, and when Christ 
saw the state of affairs he ordered the doors of Heaven to be 
closed at once, saying as he gave the order, " Who is out is 
out and who is in is in." And the fairies are as numerous 
now as ever they were before the beginning of the world.* 
(Cf. pp. 47, 53, 67, 76, 85, 109, 113, 116, 129, 154, 205, 212.) 

Here we left John, and he, continuing on his way up the 
mountain road in an opposite direction from us and round 
a turn, disappeared almost as a fairy might. 

An Aged Piper's Testimony 

We introduce now as a witness Donald McKinnon, ninety- 
six years old, a piper by profession ; and not only is he the 
oldest man on Barra, but also the oldest man among all our 
witnesses. He was born on the Island of South Uist, one of 
the Western Hebrides north of Barra, and came to Barra in 
1836, where he has lived ever since. In spite of being four 
years less than a hundred in age, he greeted us very heartily, 
and as he did not wish us to sit inside, for his chimney 
happened not to be drawing very well, and was filling the 
straw-thatched cottage with peat smoke, we sat down out- 
side on the grass and began talking ; and as we came to 
fairies this is what he said : — 

Nature of Fairies. — ' I believe that fairies exist as a tribe 
of spirits, and appear to us in the form of men and women. 


People who saw fairies can yet describe them as they appeared 
dressed in green. No doubt there are fairies in other coun- 
tries as well as here. 

' In my experience there was always a good deal of differ- 
ence between the fairies and the hosts. The fairies were 
supposed to be living without material food, whereas the 
hosts were supposed to be living upon their own booty. 
Generally, the hosts were evil and the fairies good, though 
I have heard that the fairies used to take cattle and leave 
their old men rolled up in the hides. One night an old 
witch was heard to say to the fairies outside the fold, ** We 
cannot get anything to-night." The old men who were left 
behind in the hides of the animals taken, usually disappeared 
very suddenly. I saw two men who used to be lifted by the 
hosts. They would be carried from South Uist as far south 
as Barra Head, and as far north as Harris. Sometimes when 
these men were ordered by the hosts to kill men on the road 
they would kill instead either a horse or a cow ; for in that 
way, so long as an animal was killed, the injunction of the 
hosts was fulfilled.' To illustrate at this point the idea of 
fairies, Donald repeated the same legend told by our former 
witness, John Campbell, about the emptying of Heaven and 
the doors being closed to keep the remainder of its popula- 
tion in. Then he told the following story about fairies : — 

The Fairy-Belt. — * I heard of an apprentice to carpentry 
who was working with his master at the building of a boat, 
a little distance from his house, and near the sea. He went 
to work one morning and forgot a certain tool which he 
needed in the boat-building. He returned to his carpenter- 
shed to get it, and found the shed filled with fairy men and 
women. On seeing him they ran away so greatly confused 
that one of the women forgot her gird (belt), and he picked 
it up. In a little while she came back for the gird, and asked 
him to give it her, but he refused to do so. Thereupon she 
promised him that he should be made master of his trade 
wherever his lot should fall without serving further appren- 
ticeship. On that condition he gave her the gird ; and rising 
early next morning he went to the yard where the boat was 


a-building and put in two planks so perfectly that when the 
master arrived and saw them, he said to him, " Are you 
aware of anybody being in the building-yard last night, for 
I see by the work done that I am more likely to be an 
apprentice than the person who put in those two planks, 
whoever he is. Was it you that did it ? " The reply was 
in the affirmative, and the apprentice told his master the 
circumstances under which he gained the rapid mastership 
of his trade.' 

Across the Mountains 

It was nearing sunset now, and a long mountain-climb 
was ahead of us, and one more visit that evening, before we 
should begin our return to Castlebay, and so after this story 
we said a hearty good-bye to Donald, with regret at leaving 
him. When we reached the mountain-side, one of the rarest 
of Barra's sights greeted us. To the north and south in the 
golden glow of a September twilight we saw the long line of 
the Outer Hebrides like the rocky backbone of some sub- 
merged continent. The scene and colours on the land and 
ocean and in the sky seemed more like some magic vision, 
reflected from Faerie by the * good people ' for our delight, 
than a thing of our own world. Never was air clearer or sea 
calmer, nor could there be air sweeter than that in the 
mystic mountain-stillness holding the perfume of millions 
of tiny blossoms of purple and white heather ; and as the 
last honey-bees were leaving the beautiful blossoms their 
humming came to our ears like low, strange music from 

Marian MacLean of Barra, and her Testimony 

Our next witness to testify is a direct descendant of the 
ancient MacNeils of Barra. Her name now is Marian Mac- 
Lean ; and she lives in the mountainous centre of Barra at 
Upper Borve. She is many years younger than the men who 
have testified, and one of the most industrious women on the 
island. It was already dark and past dinner-time when we 
entered her cottage, and so, as we sat down before a blazing 
peat-fire, she at once offered us some hot milk and biscuits. 


which we were only too glad to accept. And, as we ate, we 
talked first about our hard climb in the darkness across the 
mountains, and through the thick heather-bushes, and then 
about the big rock which has a key-hole in it, for it contains 
a secret entrance to a fairy palace. We had examined it in 
the twilight as we came through the mountain pass which it 
guards, and my guide Michael had assured me that more 
than one islander, crossing at the hour we were, had seen 
some of the fairies near it. We waited in front of the big 
rock in hopes one might appear for our benefit, but, in spite 
of our strong belief that there are fairies there, not a single 
one would come out. Perhaps they came and we couldn't 
see them ; who knows ? 

Fairies and Fairy Hosts (* Sluagh ')} — * O yes,' Marian said, 
as she heard Michael and myself talking over our hot milk, 
' there are fairies there, for I was told that the Pass was a 
notable fairy haunt.' Then I said through Michael, * Can you 
tell us something about what these fairies are ? ' And from that 
time, save for a few interruptions natural in conversation, we 
listened and Marian talked, and told stories as follows : — 

* Generally, the fairies are to be seen after or about sunset, 
and walk on the ground as we do, whereas the hosts travel 
in the air above places inhabited by people. The hosts used 
to go after the fall of night, and more particularly about 
midnight. You'd hear them going in fine weather against 
a wind like a covey of birds. And they were in the habit of 
lifting men in South Uist, for the hosts need men to help in 
shooting their javelins from their bows against women in the 
action of milking cows, or against any person working at 
night in a house over which they pass. And I have heard 
of good sensible men whom the hosts took, shooting a horse 
or cow in place of the person ordered to be shot. 

^ * Sluagh, " hosts," the spirit-world. The " hosts " are the spirits of 
mortals who have died. . . . According to one informant, the spirits fly 
about in great clouds, up and down the face of the world like the starlings, 
and come back to the scenes of their earthly transgressions. No soul of 
them is without the clouds of earth, dimming the brightness of the works 
of God, nor can any win heaven till satisfaction is made for the sins of 
earth.' — Alexander Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica, ii. 330. 


' There was a man who had only one cow and one daughter. 
The daughter was milking the cow at night when the hosts 
were passing, and that human being whom the hosts had 
lifted with them was her father's neighbour. And this 
neighbour was ordered by the hosts to shoot the daughter 
as she was milking, but, knowing the father and daughter, he 
shot the cow instead. The next morning he went where the 
father was and said to him, " You are missing the cow." 
" Yes," said the father, " I am." And the man who had 
shot the cow said, " Are you not glad your cow and not 
your daughter was taken ? For I was ordered to shoot your 
daughter and I shot your cow, in order to show blood on my 
arrow." " I am very glad of what you have done if that 
was the case," the father replied. " It was the case," the 
neighbour said. 

* My father and grandfather knew a man who was carried 
by the hosts from South Uist here to Barra. I understand 
when the hosts take away earthly men they require another 
man to help them. But the hosts must be spirits. My 
opinion is that they are both spirits of the dead and other 
spirits not the dead. A child was taken by the hosts and 
returned after one night and one day, and found at the back 
of the house with the palms of its hands in the holes in the 
wall, and with no life in its body. It was dead in the spirit. 
It is believed that when people are dropped from a great 
height by the hosts they are killed by the fall. As to fairies, 
my firm opinion is that they are spirits who appear in the 
shape of human beings.' 

The question was now asked whether the fairies were 
anything like the dead, and Marian hesitated about answer- 
ing. She thought they were like the dead, but not to be 
identified with them. The fallen-angel idea concerning fairies 
was an obstacle she could not pass, for she said, * When the 
fallen angels were cast out of Heaven God commanded 
them thus : — " You will go to take up your abodes in 
crevices, under the earth, in mounds, or soil, or rocks." 
And according to this command they have been condemned 
to inhabit the places named for a certain period of time, and 


when it is expired before the consummation of the world, 
they will be seen as numerous as ever/ 

Now we heard two good stories, the first about fairy 
women spinning for a mortal, the second about a wonderful 
changeling who was a magic musician : — 

Fairy-Women Spinners. — ' I have heard my father, 
Alexander MacNeil, who was well known to Mr. [Alexander] 
Carmichael and to Mr. J. F. Campbell of Islay, say that his 
father knew a woman in the neighbourhood who was in 
a hurry to have her stock of wool spun and made into cloth, 
and one night this woman secretly wished to have some 
women to help her. So the following morning there appeared 
at her house six or seven fairy women in long green robes, 
all alike chanting, " A wool-card, and a spinning-wheel." 
And when they were supplied with the instruments they 
were so very desirous to get, they all set to work, and by 
midday of that morning the cloth was going through the 
process of the hand-loom. But they were not satisfied with 
finishing the work the woman had set before them, but 
asked for new employment. The woman had no more 
spinning or weaving to be done, and began to wonder how 
she was to get the women out of the house. So she went 
into her neighbour's house and informed him of her position 
in regard to the fairy women. The old man asked what they 
were saying. " They are earnestly petitioning for some 
work to do, and I have no more to give them/' the woman 
repHed. ** Go you in,'* he said to her, " and tell them to 
spin the sand, and if then they do not move from your 
house, go out again and yell in at the door that Dun Borve 
is in fire ! " The first plan had no effect, but immediately 
on hearing the cry, ** Dun Borve is in fire ! " the fairy 
women disappeared invisibly. And as they went, the woman 
heard the melancholy wail, " Dun Borve is in fire ! Dun 
Borve is in fire ! And what will become of our hammers 
and anvil ? " — for there was a smithy in the fairy-dwelling.' 

The Tailor and the Changeling. — * There was a young wife 
of a young man who lived in the township of Allasdale, and 
the pair had just had their first child. One day the mother 


left her baby in its cradle to go out and do some shearing, 
and when she returned the child was crying in a most un- 
usual fashion. She fed him as usual on porridge and milk, 
but he wasn't satisfied with what seemed to her enough for 
any one of his age, yet every suspicion escaped her attention. 
As it happened, at the time there was a web of home-made 
cloth in the house waiting for the tailor. The tailor came 
and began to work up the cloth. As the woman was going 
out to her customary shearing operation, she warned the 
tailor if he heard the child continually crying not to pay 
much attention to it, adding she would attend to it when 
she came home, for she feared the child would delay him in 
his work. 

* All went well till about noon, when the tailor observed 
the child rising up on its elbow and stretching its hand to 
a sort of shelf above the cradle and taking down from it a 
yellow chanter [of a bagpipe]. And then the child began to 
play. Immediately after the child began to play the chanter, 
the house filled with young fairy women all clad in long 
green robes, who began to dance, and the tailor had to dance 
with them. About two o'clock that same afternoon the 
women disappeared unknown to the tailor, and the chanter 
disappeared from the hands of the child also unknown to 
the tailor ; and the child was in the cradle crying as usual. 

* The wife came home to make the dinner, and observed 
that the tailor was not so far advanced with his work as he 
ought to be in that space of time. However, when the 
fairy women disappeared, the child had enjoined upon the 
tailor never to tell what he had seen. The tailor promised to 
be faithful to the child's injunctions, and so he said nothing 
to the mother. 

* The second day the wife left for her occupation as usual, 
and told the tailor to be more attentive to his work than the 
day before. A second time at the same hour of the day 
the child in the cradle, appearing more like an old man than 
a child, took the chanter and began to play. The same 
fairy women filled the house again, and repeated their 
dance, and the tailor had to join them. 


* Naturally the tailor was as far behind with his work the 
second day as the first day, and it was very noticeable to 
the woman of the house when she returned. She thereupon 
requested him to tell her what the matter might be. Then 
he said to her, " I urge upon you after going to bed to-night 
not to fondle that child, because he is not your child, nor is 
he a child : he is an old fairy man. And to-morrow, at dead 
tide, go down to the shore and wrap him in your plaid and 
put him upon a rock and begin to pick that shell-fish which 
is called limpet, and for your life do not leave the shore 
until such a time as the tide will flow so high that you will 
scarcely be able to wade in to the main shore." The woman 
complied with the tailor's advice, and when she had waded 
to the main shore and stood there looking at the child on 
the rock, it cried to her, " You had a great need to do what 
you have done. Otherwise you'd have seen another ending 
of your turn ; but blessing be to you and curses on your 
adviser." When the wife arrived home her own natural 
child was in the cradle.' 

The Testimony of Murdoch MacLean 

The husband of Marian MacLean had entered while the 
last stories were being told, and when they were ended 
the spirit was on him, and wishing to give his testimony he 
began : — 

Lachlann's Fairy Mistress. — ' My grandmother, Catherine 
Maclnnis, used to tell about a man named Lachlann, whom 
she knew, being in love with a fairy woman. The fairy 
woman made it a point to see Lachlann every night, and he 
being worn out with her began to fear her. Things got so 
bad at last that he decided to go to America to escape the 
fairy woman. As soon as the plan was fixed, and he was 
about to emigrate, women who were milking at sunset out 
in the meadows heard very audibly the fairy woman singing 
this song: — 

What will the brown-haired woman do 
When Lachlann is on the billows ? 


' Lachlann emigrated to Cape Breton, landing in Nova 
Scotia ; and in his first letter home to his friends he stated that 
the same fairy woman was haunting him there in America.' ^ 
Abduction 0/ a Bridegroom. — * I have heard it from old 
people that a couple, newly married, were on their way to 
the home of the bride's father, and for some unknown reason 
the groom fell behind the procession, and seeing a fairy- 
dwelling open along the road was taken into it. No one 
could ever find the least trace of where he went, and all 
hope of seeing him again was given up. The man remained 
with the fairies so long that when he returned two genera- 
tions had disappeared during the lapse of time. The town- 
ship in which his bride's house used to be was depopulated 
and in ruins for upwards of twenty years, but to him the 
time had seemed only a few hours ; and he was just as 
fresh and youthful as when he went in the fairy-dwelling.' 

Nature of Fairies. — Previous to his story-telling Murdoch 
had heard us discussing the nature and powers of fairies, 
and at the end of this account he volunteered, without our 
asking for it, an opinion of his own : — * This (the story just 
told by him) leads me to believe that the spirit and body 
[of a mortal] are somehow mystically combined by fairy 
enchantment, for the fairies had a mighty power of enchant- 
ing natural people, and could transform the physical body 
in some way. It cannot be but that the fairies are spirits. 
According to my thinking and belief they cannot be anything 
but spirits. My firm belief, however, is that they are not 
the spirits of dead men, but are the fallen angels.' 

Then his wife Marian had one more story to add, and she 
at once, when she could, began : — 

The Messenger and the Fairies. — * Yes, I have heard the 

* This curious tale suggests that certain of the fairy women who entice 
mortals to their love in modern times are much the same, if not the same, 
as the succubi of Middle-Age mystics. But it is not intended by this observa- 
tion to confuse the higher orders of the Sidhe and all the fairy folk like 
the fays who come from Avalon with succubi ; though succubi and fairy 
women in general were often confused and improperly identified the one 
with the other. It need not be urged in this example of a ' iairy woman ' 
that we have to do not with a being of flesh and blood, whatever various 
readers may think of her. 



following incident took place here on the Island of Barra about 
one hundred years ago : — A young woman taken ill suddenly 
sent a messenger in all haste to the doctor for medicine. On 
his return, the day being hot and there being five miles to 
walk, he sat down at the foot of a knoll and fell asleep ; and 
was awakened by hearing a song to the following air : " Ho, 
ho, ho, hi, ho, ho. Ill it becomes a messenger on an im- 
portant message to sleep on the ground in the open air."* ' 

And with this, for the hour was late and dark, and w^e 
were several miles from Castlebay, we bade our good friends 
adieu, and began to hunt for a road out of the little mountain 
valley where Murdoch and Marian guard their cows and 
sheep. And all the way to the hotel Michael and I discussed 
the nature of fairies. Just before midnight we saw the 
welcome lights in Castlebay across the heather-covered hills, 
and we both entered the hotel to talk. There was a blazing 
fire ready for us and something to eat. Before I took my 
final leave of my friend and guide, I asked him to dictate 
for me his private opinions about fairies, what they are and 
how they appear to men, and he was glad to meet my 
request. Here is what he said about the famous folk-lorist, 
the late Mr. J. F. Campbell, with whom he often worked in 
Barra, and for himself : — 

Michael Buchanan's Deposition ' Concerning Fairies 

' I was with the late Mr. J. F. Campbell during his first 
and second tour of the Island of Barra in search of legendary 
lore strictly connected with fairies, and I know from daily 
conversing with him about fairies that he held them to be 
spirits appearing to the naked eye of the spectator as any 
of the present or former generations of men and women, 
except that they were smaller in stature. And I know 
equally that he, holding them to be spirits, thought they 
could appear or disappear at will. My own firm belief is that 
the fairies were or are only spirits which were or are seen in 
the shape of human beings, but smaller as regards stature. 
I also firmly believe in the existence of fairies as such ; and 
accept the modern and ancient traditions respecting the 


ways and customs of various fairy tribes, such as John 
Mackinnon, the old piper, and John Campbell, and the 
MacLeans told us. And I therefore have no hesitation in 
agreeing with the views held by the late Mr. J. F. Campbell 
regarding fairies.' 

The Reciters* Lament, and their Story 
The following material, so truly Celtic in its word-colour 
and in the profound note of sadness and lamentation dominat- 
ing it, may very appropriately conclude our examination of 
the Fairy-Faith of Scotland, by giving us some insight into 
the mind of the Scotch peasants of two generations ago, and 
into the then prevailing happy social environment under 
which their belief in fairies flourished. For our special use 
Dr. Alexander Carmichael has rendered it out of the original 
Gaelic, as this was taken down by him in various versions 
in the Western Hebrides. One version was recited by Ann 
Macneill, of Barra, in the year 1865, another by Angus 
Macleod, of Harris, in 1877. In relation to their belief in 
fairies the anti-clerical bias of the reciters is worth noting as 
a curious phenomenon : — 

' That is as I heard when a hairy little fellow upon the 
knee of my mother. My mother was full of stories and 
songs of music and chanting. My two ears never heard 
musical fingers more preferable for me to hear than the 
chanting of my mother. If there were quarrels among 
children, as there were, and as there will be, my beloved 
mother would set us to dance there and then. She herself 
or one of the other crofter women of the townland would 
sing to us the mouth-music. We would dance there till we 
were seven times tired. A stream of sweat would be falling 
from us before we stopped — hairful little lassies and stumpy 
little fellows. These are scattered to-day ! scattered to-day 
over the wide world ! The people of those times were full 
of music and dancing stories and traditions. The clerics 
have extinguished these. May ill befall them ! And what 
have the clerics put in their place ? Beliefs about creeds, 

I 2 


and disputations about denominations and churches ! May 
lateness be their lot ! It is they who have put the cross 
round the heads and the entanglements round the feet 
of the people. The people of the Gaeldom of to-day are 
anear perishing for lack of the famous feats of their fathers. 
The black clerics have suppressed every noble custom among 
the people of the Gaeldom — precious customs that will 
never return, no never again return.' (Now follows what 
the Reciters heard upon the knee of their mother) : — 

\* " I have never seen a man fairy nor a woman fairy, but 
my mother saw a troop of them. She herself and the other 
maidens of the townland were once out upon the summer 
shelling (grazing) . They were milking the cows, in the even- 
ing gloaming, when they observed a flock of fairies reeling 
and setting upon the green plain in front of the knoll. And, 
oh King ! but it was they the fairies themselves that had 
the right to the dancing, and not the children of men ! 
Bell-helmets of blue silk covered their heads, and garments 
of green satin covered their bodies, and sandals of yellow 
membrane covered their feet. Their heavy brown hair was 
streaming down their waist, and its lustre was of the fair 
golden sun of summer. Their skin was as white as the swan of 
the wave, and their voice was as melodious as the mavis of the 
wood, and they themselves were as beauteous of feature and 
as lithe of form as a picture, while their step was as light and 
stately and their minds as sportive as the little red hind of the 
hill. The damsel children of the sheiling-iold never saw sight 
but them, no never sight but them, never aught so beautiful. 

' " There is not a wave of prosperity upon the fairies of 
the knoll, no, not a wave. There is no growth nor increase, 
no death nor withering upon the fairies. Seed unfortunate 
they ! They went away from the Paradise with the One of 
the Great Pride. When the Father commanded the doors 
closed down and up, the intermediate fairies had no alter- 
native but to leap into the holes of the earth, where they 
are, and where they will be." 

* This is what I heard upon the knee of my beloved mother. 
Blessings be with her ever evermore I ' 



Introduction by Sophia Morrison, Hon. Secretary of the 
Manx Language Society. 

The Manx hierarchy of fairy beings people hills and glens, 
caves and rivers, mounds and roads ; and their name 
is legion. Apparently there is not a place in the island but 
has its fairy legend. Sir Walter Scott said that the * Isle 
of Man, beyond all other places in Britain, was a peculiar 
depository of the fairy-traditions, which, on the Island being 
conquered by the Norse, became in all probability chequered 
with those of Scandinavia, from a source peculiar and more 
direct than that by which they reached Scotland and 
Ireland '. 

A good Manxman, however, does not speak of fairies — 
the word ferish, a corruption of the English, did not exist 
in the island one hundred and fifty years ago. He talks of 
* The Little People ' {Mooinjer veggey) , or, in a more familiar 
mood, of * Themselves ', and of * Little Boys ' {Guillyn 
veggey), or * Little Fellas*. In contradistinction to mortals 
he calls them * Middle World Men *, for they are believed to 
dwell in a world of their own, being neither good enough 
for Heaven nor bad enough for Hell. 

At the present moment almost all the older Manx peasants 
hold to this belief in fairies quite firmly, but with a certain 
dread of them ; and, to my knowledge, two old ladies of the 
better class yet leave out cakes and water for the fairies 
every night. The following story, illustrative of the belief, 
was told to me by Bill Clarke : — 

' Once while I was fishing from a ledge of rocks that runs 
out into the sea at Lag-ny-Keilley, a dense grey mist began 
to approach the land, and I thought I had best make for 
home while the footpath above the rocks was visible. When 
getting my things together I heard what sounded like a lot 
of children coming out of school. I lifted my head, and 
behold ye, there was a fleet of fairy boats each side of the 
rock. Their riding-lights were shining hke little stars, and 
I heard one of the Little Fellas shout, " Hraaghyn boght as 


earish hroigh, skeddan dy liooar ec yn mooinjer seihll shoh, 
cha net veg ain *' (Poor times and dirty weather, and herring 
enough at the people of this world, nothing at us). Then 
they dropped off and went agate o' the flitters.* 

' Willy-the-Fairy,' as he is called, who lives at Rhenass, 
says he often hears the fairies singing and playing up the 
Glen o' nights. I have heard him sing airs which he said 
he had thus learned from the Little People} 

Again, there is a belief that at Keeill Moirrey (Mary's 
Church), near Glen Meay, a little old woman in a red cloak 
is sometimes seen coming over the mountain towards the 
keeill, ringing a bell, just about the hour when church 
service begins. Keeill Moirrey is one of the early little 
Celtic cells, probably of the sixth century, of which nothing 
remains but the foundations. 

And the following prayer, surviving to our own epoch, is 
most interesting. It shows, in fact, pure paganism ; and 
we may judge from it that the ancient Manx people regarded 
Manannan, the great Tuatha De Danann god, in his true 
nature, as a spiritual being, a Lord of the Sea, and as belong- 
ing to the complex fairy hierarchy. This prayer was given 
to me by a Manxwoman nearly one hundred years old, who 
is still living. She said it had been used by her grandfather, 
and that her father prayed the same prayer — substituting 
St. Patrick's name for Manannan's : — 

Manannan beg mac y Leirr, fer vannee yn Elian, 

Bannee shin as nyn maatey, mie goll magh 

As cheet stiagh ny share lesh bio as marroo " sy vaatey ". 

(Little Manannan son of Leirr, who blest our Island, 
Bless us and our boat, well going out 
And better coming in with living and dead [fish] in the 

It seems to me that no one of the various theories so far 
advanced accounts in itself for the Fairy-Faith. There is 

* ' " Willy-the-Fairy," otherwise known as William Cain, is the musician 
referred to by the late Mr. John Nelson (p. 131). The latter 's statement 
that William Cain played one of these fairy tunes at one of our Manx 
entertainments in Peel is perfectly correct.' — Sophia Morrison. 


always a missing factor, an unknown quantity which has 
yet to be discovered. No doubt the Pygmy Theory explains 
a good deal. In some countries a tradition has been handed 
down of the times when there were races of diminutive men 
in existence — beings so small that their tiny hands could 
have used the flint arrow-heads and scrapers which are like 
toys to us. No such tradition exists at the present day in 
the Isle of Man, but one might have filtered down from the 
far-off ages and become innate in the folk-memory, and now, 
unknown to the Manx peasant, may possibly suggest to his 
mind the troops of Little People in the shadowy glen or on 
the lonely mountain-side. Again, the rustling of the leaves 
or the sough of the wind may be heard by the peasant as 
strange and mysterious voices, or the trembling shadow of 
a bush may appear to him as an unearthly being. Natural 
facts, explainable by modern science, may easily remain 
dark mysteries to those who live quiet lives close to Nature, 
far from sophisticated towns, and whose few years of school- 
ing have left the depths of their being undisturbed, only, as 
it were, ruffling the shallows. 

But this is not enough. Even let it be granted that nine 
out of every ten cases of experiences with fairies can be 
analysed and explained away — there remains the tenth. In 
this tenth case one is obliged to admit that there is some- 
thing at work which we do not understand, some force in 
play which, as yet, we know not. In spite of ourselves we 
feel * There 's Powers that 's in '. These Powers are not 
necessarily what the superstitious call * supernatural '. We 
realize now that there is nothing supernatural — that what 
used to be so called is simply something that we do not 
understand at present. Our forefathers would have thought 
the telephone, the X-rays, and wireless telegraphy things 
* supernatural '. It is more than possible that our descen- 
dants may make discoveries equally marvellous in the realms 
both of mind and matter, and that many things, which 
nowadays seem to the materialistically-minded the creations 
of credulous fancy, may in the future be understood and 
recognized as part of the one great scheme of things. 


Some persons are certainly more susceptible than others 
to these unknown forces. Most people know reliable 
instances of telepathy and presentiment amongst their 
acquaintances. It seems not at all contrary to reason that 
both matter and mind, in knowledge of which we have not 
gone so very far after all, may exist in forms as yet entirely 
unknown to us. After all, beings with bodies and per- 
sonalities different from our own may well inhabit the 
unseen world around us : the Fairy Hound, white as driven 
snow, may show himself at times among his mundane com- 
panions ; Fenodyree may do the farm-work for those whom 
he favours ; the Little People may sing and dance o' nights 
in Colby Glen. Let us not say it is ' impossible '. 

Peel, Isle of Man, 
September 1910. 

On the Slopes of South Barrule 
I was introduced to the ways and nature of Manx fairies 
in what is probably the most fairy-haunted part of the isle — 
the southern slopes of South Barrule, the mountain on whose 
summit Manannan is said to have had his stronghold, and 
whence he worked his magic, hiding the kingdom in dense 
fog whenever he beheld in the distance the coming of an 
enemy's ship or fleet. And from a representative of the 
older generation, Mrs. Samuel Leece, who lives at Balla- 
modda, a pleasant village under the shadow of South 
Barrule, I heard the first story : — 

Baby and Table Moved by Fairies. — ' I have been told of 
their (the fairies') taking babies, though I can't be sure it is 
true. But this did happen to my own mother in this parish 
of Kirk Patrick about eighty years since : She was in bed 
with her baby, but wide awake, when she felt the baby 
pulled off her arm and heard the rush of them. Then she 
mentioned the Almighty's name, and, as they were hurrying 
away, a httle table alongside the bed went round about the 
floor twenty times. Nobody was in the room with my 
mother, and she always allowed it was the little fellows.' 


Manx Tales in a Snow-bound Farm-house 

When our interesting conversation was over, Mrs. Leece 
directed me to her son's farm-house, where her husband, 
Mr. Samuel Leece, then happened to be ; and going there 
through the snow-drifts, I found him with his son and the 
family within. The day was just the right sort to stir Manx 
memories, and it was not long before the best of stories 
about the * little people ' were being told in the most natural 
way, and to the great delight of the children. The grand- 
father, who is eighty-six years of age, sat by the open fire 
smoking ; and he prepared the way for the stories (three of 
which we record) by telling about a ghost seen by himself 
and his father, and by the announcement that * the fairies 
are thought to be spirits '. 

Under ' Fairy ' Control. — ' About fifty years ago,* said 
Mr. T. Leece, the son, * Paul Taggart, my wife's uncle, a 
tailor by trade, had for an apprentice, Humphrey Keggan, 
a young man eighteen or nineteen years of age ; and it often 
happened that while the two of them would be returning 
home at nightfall, the apprentice would suddenly disappear 
from the side of the tailor, and even in the midst of a con- 
versation, as soon as they had crossed the burn in the field 
down there (indicating an adj oining field) . And Taggart could 
not see nor hear Humphrey go. The next morning Humphrey 
would come back, but so worn out that he could not work, 
and he always declared that little men had come to him in 
crowds, and used him as a horse, and that with them he 
had travelled all night across fields and over hedges.' The 
wife of the narrator substantiated this strange psychological 
story by adding : — * This is true, because I know my Uncle 
Paul too well to doubt what he says.' And she then related 
the two following stories : — 

Heifer Killed by Fairy Woman's Touch. — * Aunt Jane was 
coming down the road on the other side of South Barrule 
when she saw a strange woman ' (who Mr. T. Leece 
suggested was a witch) * appear in the middle of the gorse 
and walk right over the gorse and heather in a place where 


no person could walk. Then she observed the woman go 
up to a heifer and put her hand on it ; and within a few 
days that heifer was dead.' 

The Fairy Dog. — ' This used to happen about one hundred 
years ago, as my mother has told me : — Where my grand- 
father John Watterson was reared, just over near Kerroo 
Kiel (Narrow Quarter) , all the family were sometimes sitting 
in the house of a cold winter night, and my great grand- 
mother and her daughters at their wheels spinning, when 
a little white dog would suddenly appear in the room. Then 
every one there would have to drop their work and prepare 
for the company to come in : they would put down a fire and 
leave fresh water for them, and hurry off upstairs to bed. 
They could hear them come, but could never see them, only 
the dog. The dog was a fairy dog, and a sure sign of their 

Testimony of a Herb-Doctor and Seer 

At Ballasalla I was fortunate enough to meet one of the 
most interesting of its older inhabitants, John Davies, a 
Celtic medicine-man, who can cure most obstinate maladies 
in men or animals with secret herbs, and who knows very 
much about witchcraft and the charms against it. * Witches 
are as common as ducks walking barefooted,' he said, using 
the duck simile, which is a popular Manx one ; and he cited 
two particular instances from his own experience. But for 
us it is more important to know that John Davies is also an 
able seer. The son of a weaver, he was born in County Down, 
Ireland, seventy-eight years ago ; but in earliest boyhood 
he came with his people to the Isle of Man, and grew up in 
the country near Ramsay, and so thoroughly has he identified 
himself with the island and its lore, and even with its ancient 
language, that for our purposes he may well be considered a 
Manxman. His testimony about Manx fairies is as follows : — 

Actual Fairies Described, — * I am only a poor ignorant 
man ; when I was married I couldn't say the word " matri- 
mony " in the right way. But one does not have to be 
educated to see fairies, and I have seen them many a time. 


I have seen them with the naked eye as numerous as I have 
seen scholars coming out of Ballasalla school ; and I have 
been seeing them since I was eighteen to twenty years of 
age. The last one I saw was in Kirk Michael. Before 
education came into the island more people could see the 
fairies ; now very few people can see them. But they (the 
fairies) are as thick on the Isle of Man as ever they were. 
They throng the air, and darken Heaven, and rule this lower 
world. It is only twenty-one miles from this world up to 
the first heaven.^ There are as many kinds of fairies as 
populations in our world. I have seen some who were about 
two and a half feet high ; and some who were as big as we 
are. I think very many such fairies as these last are the 
lost souls of the people who died before the Flood. At the 
Flood all the world was drowned ; but the Spirit which God 
breathed into Adam will never be drowned, or burned, and 
it is as much in the sea as on the land. Others of the fairies 
are evil spirits : our Saviour drove a legion of devils into 
a herd of swine ; the swine were choked, but not the devils. 
You can't drown devils ; it is spirits they are, and just like 
a shadow on the wall.' I here asked about the personal 
aspects of most fairies of human size, and my friend said : — 
' They appear to me in the same dress as in the days when 
they lived here on earth ; the spirit itself is only what God 
< blew into Adam as the breath of life.' 
- It seems to me that, on the whole, John Davies has had 
genuine visions, but that whatever he may have seen has 
been very much coloured in interpretation by his devout 
knowledge of the Christian Bible, and by his social environ- 
ment, as is self-evident. 

Testimony of a Ballasalla Manxwoman 

A well-informed Manxwoman, of Ballasalla, who lives in 
the ancient stone house wherein she was born, and in which 
before her lived her grandparents, offers this testimony : — 

Concerning Fairies. — * I've heard a good deal of talk 

* This is the Mid-world of Irish seers, who would be inclined to follow 
the Manx custom and call the fairies ' the People of the Middle World '. 


about fairies, but never believed in them myself; the old 
people thought them the ghosts of the dead or some such 
things. They were like people who had gone before (that is, 
dead). If there came a strange sudden knock or noises, or 
if a tree took a sudden shaking when there was no wind, 
people used to make out it was caused by the fairies. On 
the nth of May ^ we used to gather mountain-ash (Cuini) 
with red berries on it, and make crosses out of its sprigs, and 
put them over the doors, so that the fairies would not come 
in. My father always saw that this was done ; he said we 
could have no luck during the year if we forgot to do it.' 

Testimony Given in a Joiner's Shop 

George Gelling, of Ballasalla, a joiner, has a local reputa- 
tion for knowing much about the fairies, and so I called on 
him at his workshop. This is what he told me : — 

Seeing the Fairies. — ' I was making a coffin here 4n the 
shop, and, after tea, my apprentice was late returning ; he 
was out by the hedge just over there looking at a crowd of 
little people kicking and dancing. One of them came up and 
asked him what he was looking at ; and this made him run 
back to the shop. When he described what he had seen, 
I told him they were nothing but fairies.' 

Hearing Fairy Music. — ' Up by the abbey on two different 
occasions I have heard the fairies. They were playing tunes 
not of this world, and on each occasion I listened for nearly 
an hour.' 

Micklehy and the Fairy Woman. — * A man named Mickleby 
was coming from Derbyhaven at night, when by a certain 

* ' May 1 1 =in Manx Oie Voaldyn, " May-day Eve." On this evening the 
fairies were supposed to be peculiarly active. To propitiate them and to 
ward off the influence of evil spirits, and witches, who were also active at 
this time, green leaves or boughs and sumark or primrose flowers were 
strewn on the threshold, and branches of the cuirn or mountain ash made 
into small crosses without the aid of a knife, which was on no account to 
be used (steel or iron in any form being taboo to fairies and spirits), and 
stuck over the doors of the dwelling-houses and cow-houses. Cows were 
further protected from the same influences by having the Bollan-feaill- 
Eoin (John's feast wort) placed in their stalls. This was also one of the 
occasions on which no one would give fire away, and on which fires were 
and are still lit on the hills to drive away the fairies.' — Sophia Morrison. 


stream he met two ladies. He saluted them, and then 
walked along with them to Ballahick Farm. There he saw 
a house lit up, and they took him into it to a dance. As he 
danced, he happened to wipe away his sweat with a part of 
the dress of one of the two strange women who was his 
partner. After this adventure, whenever Mickleby was 
lying abed at night, the woman with whom he danced 
would appear standing beside his bed. And the only way 
to drive her away was to throw over her head and Mickleby 
a linen sheet which had never been bleached.' 

Nature of Fairies. — * The fairies are spirits. I think they 
are in this country yet : A man below here forgot his cow, 
and at a late hour went to look for her, and saw that crowds 
of fairies like little boys were with him. [St.] Paul said that 
spirits are thick in the air, if only we could see them ; and 
we call spirits fairies. I think the old people here in the 
islancT thought of fairies in the same way.* 

The Fairies' Revenge. — ^William Oates now happened to 
come into the workshop, and being as much interested in 
the subject under discussion as ourselves, offered various 
stories, of which the following is a type : — ' A man named 
Watterson, who used often to see the fairies in his house at 
Colby playing in the moonlight, on one occasion heard them 
coming just as he was going to bed. So he went out to 
the spring to get fresh water for them ; and coming into the 
house put the can down on the floor, saying, *' Now, little 
beggars, drink away." And at that (an insult to the fairies) 
the water was suddenly thrown upon him.' 

A Vicar's Testimony 

When I called on the Rev. J. M. Spicer, vicar of Malew 
parish, at his home near Castletown, he told me this very 
curious story : — 

The Taking of Mrs. K . — ' The belief in fairies is quite 

a living thing here yet. For example, old Mrs. K , 

about a year ago, told me that on one occasion, when her 
daughter had been in Castletown during the day, she went 
out to the road at nightfall to see if her daughter was yet 


in sight, whereupon a whole crowd of fairies suddenly sur- 
rounded her, and began taking her off toward South Barrule 
Mountain ; and, she added, " I couldn't get away from them 
until I had called my son." * 

A Canon's Testimony 

I am greatly indebted to the Rev. Canon Kewley, of 
Arbory, for the valuable testimony which follows, and 
especially for his kindness in allowing me to record what is 
one of the clearest examples of a collective hallucination 
I have heard about as occurring in the fairy-haunted regions 
of Celtic countries : — 

A Collective Hallucination. — * A good many things can be 
explained as natural phenomena, but there are some things 
which I think cannot be. For example, my sister and myself 
and our coachman, and apparently the horse, saw the same 
phenomenon at the same moment : one evening we were 
driving along an avenue in this parish when the avenue 
seemed to be blocked by a great crowd of people, like a 
funeral procession ; and the crowd was so dense that we 
could not see through it. The throng was about thirty to 
forty yards away. When we approached, it melted away, 
and no person was anywhere in sight.' 

The Manx Fairy-Faith. — * Among the old people of this 
parish there is still a belief in fairies. About eighteen years 
ago, I buried a man, a staunch Methodist, who said he once 
saw the road full of fairies in the form of little black pigs, 
and that when he addressed them, " In the name of God 
what are ye ? " they immediately vanished. He was certain 
they were the fairies. Other old people speak of the fairies 
as the little folk. The tradition is that the fairies once in- 
habited this island, but were banished for evil-doing. The 
elder-tree, in Manx tramman, is supposed to be inhabited by 
fairies. Through accident, one night a woman ran into such 
a tree, and was immediately stricken with a terrible swelling 
which her neighbours declared came from disturbing the 
fairies in the tree. This was on the borders of Arbory 


The Canon favours the hypothesis that in much of the 
folk-beUef concerning fairies and Fairyland there is present 
an instinct, as seen among all peoples, for communion with 
the other world, and that this instinct shows itself in another 
form in the Christian doctrine of the Communion of Saints. 

Fairy Tales on Christmas Day 

The next morning, Christmas morning, I called at the 
picturesque roadside home of Mrs. Dinah Moore a Manx- 
woman living near Glen Meay ; and she contributed the best 
single collection of Manx folk-legends I discovered on the 
island. The day was bright and frosty, and much snow still 
remained in the shaded nooks and hollows, so that a seat 
before the cheerful fire in Mrs. Moore's cottage was very 
comfortable ; and with most work suspended for the ancient 
day of festivities in honour of the Sun, re-born after its 
death at the hands of the Powers of Darkness, all conditions 
were favourable for hearing about fairies, and this may 
explain why such important results were obtained. 

Fairy Deceit. — ' I heard of a man and wife who had no 
children. One night the man was out on horseback and 
heard a little baby crying beside the road. He got off his 
horse to get the baby, and, taking it home, went to give it 
to his wife, and it was only a block of wood. And then the 
old fairies were outside yelling at the man : ** Eash un oie, 
s' cheap t'ou mollit ! " (Age one night, how easily thou art 
deceived 1).* 

A Midwife s Strange Experience. — * A strange man took 
a nurse to a place where a baby^boy was born. After the 
birth, the man set out on a table two cakes, one of them 
broken and the other one whole, and said to the nurse : 
** Eat, eat ; but don't eat of the cake which is broken nor 
of the cake which is whole." And the nurse said : " What 
in the name of the Lord am I going to eat ? " At that all 
the fairies in the house disappeared ; and the nurse was left 
out on a mountain-side alone.' 

A Fairy-Baking. — * At night the fairies came into a house 
in Glen Rushen to bake. The family had put no water out 


for them ; and a beggar-man who had been left lodging on 
the sofa downstairs heard the fairies say, " We have no 
water, so we'll take blood out of the toe of the servant who 
forgot our water/' And from the girl's blood they mixed 
their dough. Then they baked their cakes, ate most of 
them, and poked pieces up under the thatched roof. The 
next day the servant-girl fell ill, and was ill until the old 
beggar-man returned to the house and cured her with a bit 
of the cake which he took from under the thatch.' 

A Changeling Musician. — * A family at Dalby had a poor 
idiot baby, and when it was twenty years old it still sat by 
the fire just like a child. A tailor came to the house to work 
on a day when all the folks were out cutting corn, and the 
idiot was left with him. The tailor began to whistle as he 
sat on the table sewing, and the little idiot sitting by the fire 
said to him : "If you'll not tell anybody when they come 
in, I'll dance that tune for you." So the little fellow began 
to dance, and he could step it out splendidly. Then he said 
to the tailor : "If you'll not tell anybody when they come 
in, I'll play the fiddle for you." And the tailor and the idiot 
spent a very enjoyable afternoon together. But before the 
family came in from the fields, the poor idiot, as usual, was 
sitting in a chair by the fire, a big baby who couldn't hardly 
talk. When the mother came in she happened to say to 
the tailor, " You've a fine chap here," referring to the idiot. 
" Yes, indeed," said the tailor, " we've had a very fine 
afternoon together ; but I think we had better make a good 
fire and put him on it." " Oh ! " cried the mother, " the 
poor child could never even walk." " Ah, but he can dance 
and play the fiddle, too," replied the tailor. And the fire 
was made ; but when the idiot saw that they were for 
putting him on it he pulled from his pocket a ball, and this 
ball went rolling on ahead of him, and he, going after it, 
was never seen again.' After this strange story was finished 
I asked Mrs. Moore where she had heard it, and she said : — 
* I have heard this story ever since I was a girl. I knew 
the house and family, and so did my mother. The family's 
name was Cubbon.' 


The Fenodyrees (or * Phynnodderee's ') Disgust. — * During 
snowy weather, like this, the Fenodyree would gather in the 
sheep at night ; and during the harvest season would do the 
threshing when all the family were abed. One time, how- 
ever, just over here at Gordon Farm, the farmer saw him, 
and he was naked ; and so the farmer put out a new suit of 
clothes for him. The Fenodyree came at night, and looking 
at the clothes with great disgust at the idea of wearing such 
things, said : — 

Bayrn da'n chione, doogh da'n chione, 
Cooat da'n dreeym, doogh da'n dreeym, 
Breechyn da'n toin, doogh da'n toin, 
Agh my she Ihiat Gordon mooar,. 
Cha nee Ihiat Glion reagh Rushen. 

(Cap for the head, alas ! poor head, 
Coat for the back, alas ! poor back. 
Breeches for the breech, alas ! poor breech. 
But if big Gordon [farm] is thine. 
Thine is not the merry Glen of Rushen.) ^ 

And off he went to Glen Rushen for good.' 

Testimony from the Keeper of Peel Castle 

From Mrs. Moore's house I walked on to Peel, where 
I was fortunate in meeting, in his own home, Mr. William 
Cashen, the well-known keeper of the famous old Peel Castle, 
within whose yet solid battlements stands the one true 
round tower outside of Ireland. I heard first of all about 
the fairy dog — the Moddey Doo (Manx for Black Dog) — which 
haunts the castle ; and then Mr. Cashen related to me the 
following anecdotes and tales about Manx fairies : — 

Prayer against the Fairies. — * My father's and grand- 
father's idea was that the fairies tumbled out of the battle- 
ments of Heaven, falling earthward for three days and three 
nights as thick as hail ; and that one third of them fell into 

^ I am wholly indebted to Miss Morrison for these Manx verses and their 
translation, which I have substituted for Mrs. Moore's English rendering. 
Miss Morrison, after my return to Oxford, saw Mrs. Moore and took them 
down from her, a task I was not well fitted to do when the tale was told. 



the sea, one third on the land, and one third remained in 
the air, in which places they will remain till the Day of 
Judgement. The old Manx people always believed that this 
fall of the fairies was due to the first sin, pride ; and here is 
their prayer against the fairies : — " Jee sane mee voish cloan 
ny moyrn " (God preserve me from the children of pride [or 

A Man's Two Wives. — * A Ballaleece woman was captured 
by the fairies ; and, soon afterwards, her husband took a new 
wife, thinking the first one gone for ever. But not long after 
the marriage, one night the first wife appeared to her former 
husband and said to him, and the second wife overheard 
her : '' You'll sweep the barn clean, and mind there is not 
one straw left on the floor. Then stand by the door, and at 
a certain hour a company of people on horseback will ride 
in, and you lay hold of that bridle of the horse I am on, and 
don't let it go." He followed the directions carefully, but 
was unable to hold the horse : the second wife had put some 
straw on the barn floor under a bushel.' 

Sounds of Infinity. — * On Dalby Mountain, this side of 
Cronk-yn-Irree-Laa the old Manx people used to put their 
ears to the earth to hear the Sounds of Infinity (Sheean-ny- 
Feaynid), which were sounds like murmurs. They thought 
these sounds came from beings in space ; for in their belief 
all space is filled with invisible beings.' ^ 

To THE Memory of a Manx Scholar 

Since the following testimony was written down, its 
author, the late Mr. John Nelson, of Ramsey, has passed 
out of our realm of life into the realm invisible. He was 
one of the few Manxmen who knew the Manx language 
really well, and the ancient traditions which it has preserved 

* It has been suggested, and no doubt correctly, that these murmuring 
sounds heard on Dalby Mountain axe due to the action of sea-waves, close 
at hand, washing over shifting masses of pebbles on the rock-bound shore. 
Though this be the true explanation of the phenomenon itself, it only 
proves the attribution of cause to be wrong, and not the underlying 
animistic conception of spiritual beings. 


both orally and in books. In his kindly manner and with 
fervent loyalty toward all things Celtic, he gave me leave, 
during December 1909, to publish for the first time the 
interesting matter which follows ; and, with reverence, we 
here place it on record to his memory : — 

A Blinding by Fairies. — ' My grandfather, William Nelson, 
was coming home from the herring fishing late at night, on 
the road near Jurby, when he saw in a pea-field, across a 
hedge, a great crowd of little fellows in red coats dancing 
and making music. And as he looked, an old woman from 
among them came up to him and spat in his eyes, saying : 
" You'll never see us again " ; and I am told that he was 
blind afterwards till the day of his death. He was certainly 
blind for fourteen years before his death, for I often had to 
lead him around ; but, of course, I am unable to say of my 
own knowledge that he became blind immediately after his 
strange experience, or if not until later in life ; but as a 
young man he certainly had good sight, and it was believed 
that the fairies destroyed it.* 

The Fairy Tune. — * William Cain, of Glen Helen (formerly 
Rhenass), was going home in the evening across the moun- 
tains near Brook's Park, when he heard music down below 
in a glen, and saw there a great glass house like a palace, all 
lit up. He stopped to listen, and when he had the new tune 
he went home to practise it on his fiddle ; and recently he 
played the same fairy tune at Miss Sophia Morrison's Manx 
entertainment in Peel.' 

Manannan the Magician. — Mr. Nelson told a story about 
a Buggane or Fenodyree, such as we already have, and 
explained the Glashtin as a water-bull, supposed to be 
a goblin half cow and half horse, and then offered this 
tradition about Manannan : — ' It is said that Manannan 
was a great magician, and that he used to place on the sea 
pea-shells, held open with sticks and with sticks for masts 
standing up in them, and then so magnify them that enemies 
beheld them as a strong fleet, and would not approach the 
island. Another tradition is that Manannan on his three 
legs (the Manx coat of arms) could travel from one end to 

K 2 


the other of his isle with wonderful swiftness, moving Hke 
a wheel.' ^ 

Testimony of a Farmer and Fisherman 

From the north of the island I returned to Peel, where 
I had arranged to meet new witnesses, and the first one of 
these is James Caugherty, a farmer and fisherman, born in 
Kirk Patrick fifty-eight years ago, who testified (in part) as 
follows : — 

Churn Worked by Fairies. — ' Close by Glen Cam (Winding 
Glen), when I was a boy, our family often used to hear the 
empty churn working in the churn-house, when no person 
was near it, and they would say, " Oh, it 's the little fellows." ' 

A Remarkable Changeling Story. — * Forty to fifty years 
ago, between St. John's and Foxdale, a boy, with whom 
I often played, came to our house at nightfall to borrow 
some candles, and while he was on his way home across the 
hills he suddenly saw a little boy and a little woman coming 
after him. If he ran, they ran, and all the time they gained 
on him. Upon reaching home he was speechless, his hands 
were altered (turned awry), and his feet also, and his finger- 
nails had grown long in a minute. He remained that way 
a week. My father went to the boy's mother and told her it 
wasn't Robby at all that she saw ; and when my father was 
for taking the tongs and burning the boy with a piece of 
glowing turf [as a changeling test], the boy screamed awfully. 
Then my father persuaded the mother to send a messenger 
to a doctor in the north near Ramsey " doing charms ", to see 
if she couldn't get Robby back. As the messenger was re- 
turning, the mother stepped out of the house to relieve him, 
and when she went into the house again her own Robby was 
there. As soon as Robby came to himself all right, he said 
a little woman and a little boy had followed him, and that 

* In this mythological role, Manannan is apparently a sun god or else 
the sun itself ; and the Manx coat of arms, which is connected with him, 
being a sun symbol, suggests to us now ages long prior to history, when 
the Isle of Man was a Sacred Isle dedicated to the cult of the Supreme God 
of Light and Life, and when all who dwelt thereon were regarded as the 
Children of the Sun. 


just as he got home he was conscious of being taken away 
by them, but he didn't know where they came from nor 
where they took him. He was unable to tell more than 
this. Robby is ahve yet, so far as I know ; he is Robert 
Christian, of Douglas.' 

Evidence from a Member of the House of Keys 

Mr. T. C. Kermode, of Peel, member of the House of Keys, 
the Lower House of the Manx Parliament, very kindly 
dictated for my use the following statement concerning 
fairies which he himself has seen : — 

Reality of Fairies. — * There is much belief here in the 
island that there actually are fairies ; and I consider such 
belief based on an actual fact in nature, because of my own 
strange experience. About forty years ago, one October 
night, I and another young man were going to a kind of 
Manx harvest-home at Cronk-a-Voddy. On the Glen Helen 
road, just at the Beary Farm, as we walked along talking, 
my friend happened to look across the river (a small brook), 
and said : "Oh look, there are the fairies. Did you ever 
see them ? " I looked across the river and saw a circle of 
supernatural light, which I have now come to regard as the 
*' astral light " or the Hght of Nature, as it is called by 
mystics, and in which spirits become visible. The spot 
where the light appeared was a fiat space surrounded on 
the sides away from the river by banks formed by low hills ; 
and into this space and the circle of light, from the surround- 
ing sides apparently, I saw come in twos and threes a great 
crowd of little beings smaller than Tom Thumb and his 
wife. All of them, who appeared like soldiers, were dressed 
in red. They moved back and forth amid the circle of light, 
as they formed into order like troops drilling. I advised 
getting nearer to them, but my friend said, " No, I'm going 
to the party." Then after we had looked at them a few 
minutes my friend struck the roadside wall with a stick and 
shouted, and we lost the vision and the light vanished.' 

The Manx Fairy-Faith. — * I have much evidence from old 
Manx people, who are entirely reliable and God-fearing, that 


they have seen the fairies hunting with hounds and horses, 
and on the sea in ships, and under other conditions, and that 
they have heard their music. They consider the fairies 
a complete nation or world in themselves, distinct from 
our world, but having habits and instincts like ours. 
Social organization among them is said to be similar to that 
among men, and they have their soldiers and commanders. 
Where the fairies actually exist the old people cannot tell, 
but they certainly believe that they can be seen here on 

Testimony from a Past Provincial Grand Master 

Mr. J. H. Kelly, Past Provincial Grand Master of the Isle 
of Man District of Oddfellows, a resident of Douglas, offers 
the following account of a curious psychical experience of 
his own, and attributes it to fairies : — 

A Strange Experience with Fairies. — * Twelve to thirteen 
years ago, on a clear moonlight night, about twelve o'clock, 
I left Laxey ; and when about five miles from Douglas, at 
Ballagawne School, I heard talking, and was suddenly con- 
scious of being in the midst of an invisible throng. As this 
strange feeling came over me, I saw coming up the road 
four figures as real to look upon as human beings, and of 
medium size, though I am certain they were not human. 
When these four, who seemed to be connected with the 
invisible throng, came out of the Garwick road into the 
main road, I passed into a by-road leading down to a very 
peaceful glen called Garwick Glen ; and I still had the same 
feeling that invisible beings were with me, and this con- 
tinued for a mile. There was no fear or emotion or excite- 
ment, but perfect calm on my part. I followed the by-road ; 
and when I began to mount a hill there was a sudden and 
strange quietness, and a sense of isolation came over me, 
as though the joy and peace of my life had departed with 
the invisible throng. From different personal experiences 
like this one, I am firmly of the opinion and belief that the 
fairies exist. One cannot say that they are wholly physical 
or wholly spiritual, but the impression left upon my mind 


is that they are an absolutely real order of beings not 

Invoking Little Manannan, son of Leirr, to give us safe 
passage across his watery domain, we now go southward to 
the nearest Brythonic country, the Land of Arthur, Wales. 


Introduction by The Right Hon. Sir John Rhys, M.A.; 
D.Litt., F.B.A., Hon. LL.D. of the University of Edinburgh ; 
Professor of Celtic in the University of Oxford ; Principal 
of Jesus College ; author of Celtic Folklore, Welsh and 
Manx, &c. 

The folk-lore of Wales in as far as it concerns the Fairies 
consists of a very few typical tales, such as : — 

(i) The Fairy Dance and the usual entrapping of a youth, 
who dances with the Little People for a long time, while he 
supposes it only a few minutes, and who if not rescued is 
taken by them. 

(2) There are other ways in which recruits may be led 
into Fairyland and induced to marry fairy maidens, and 
any one so led away is practically lost to his kith and kin, 
for even if he be allowed to visit them, the visit is mostly 
cut short in one way or another. 

(3) A man catches a fairy woman and marries her. She 
proves to be an excellent housewife, but usually she has had 
put into the marriage-contract certain conditions which, if 
broken, inevitably release her from the union, and when so 
released she hurries away instantly, never to return, unless 
it be now and then to visit her children. One of the con- 
ditions, especially in North Wales, is that the husband 
should never touch her with iron. But in the story of the 
Lady of Llyn y Fan Each, in Carmarthenshire, the condi- 
tion is that he must not strike the wife without a cause three 
times, the striking being interpreted to include any slight 
tapping, say, on the shoulder. This story is one of the most 
remarkable on record in Wales, and it recalls the famous 
tale of Undine, published in German many years ago by 


De La Motte Fouque. It is not known where he found it, 
or whether the people among whom it was current were 
pure Germans or of Celtic extraction. 

(4) The Fairies were fond of stealing nice healthy babies 
and of leaving in their place their own sallow offspring. 
The stories of how the right child might be recovered take 
numerous forms ; and some of these stories suggest how 
weak and sickly children became the objects of systematic 
cruelty at the hands of even their own parents. The change- 
ling was usually an old man, and many were the efforts 
made to get him to betray his identity. 

(5) There is a widespread story of the fairy husband 
procuring for his wife the attendance of a human midwife. 
The latter was given a certain ointment to apply to the baby's 
eyes when she dressed it. She was not to touch either of her 
own eyes with it, but owing to an unfailing accident she does, 
and with the eye so touched she is enabled to see the fairies 
in their proper shape and form. This has consequences : The 
fairy husband pays the midwife well, and discharges her. 
She goes to a fair or market one day and observes her old 
master stealing goods from a stall, and makes herself known 
to him. He asks her with which eye she sees him. She tells 
him, and the eye to which he objects he instantly blinds. 

(6) Many are the stories about the fairies coming into 
houses at night to wash and dress their children after 
everybody is gone to bed. A servant-maid who knows her 
business leaves a vessel full of water for them, and takes 
care that the house is neat and tidy, and she then probably 
finds in the morning some fairy gift left her, whereas if 
the house be untidy and the water dirty, they will pinch 
her in her sleep, and leave her black and blue. 

(7) The fairies were not strong in their household arrange- 
ments, so it was not at all unusual for them to come to the 
farm-houses to borrow what was wanting to them. 

In the neighbourhood of Snowdon the fairies were believed 
to live beneath the lakes, from which they sometimes came 
forth, especially on misty days, and children used to be 
warned not to stray away from their homes in that sort of 


weather, lest they should be kidnapped by them. These 
fairies were not Christians, and they were great thieves. 
They were fond of bright colours. They were sharp of hear- 
ing, and no word that reached the wind would escape them. 
If a fairy's proper name was discovered, the fairy to whom 
it belonged felt baffled.^ 

Some characteristics of the fairies seem to argue an 
ancient race, while other characteristics betray their origin 
in the workshop of the imagination ; but generally speak- 
ing, the fairies are heterogeneous, consisting partly of the 
divinities of glens and forests and mountains, and partly of 
an early race of men more or less caricatured and equipped 
by fable with impossible attributes.^ 

Jesus College, Oxford, 
October 1910. 

Our field of research in the Land of Arthur includes all 
the coast counties save Cardiganshire, from Anglesey on the 
north to Glamorganshire on the south. At the very begin- 
ning of our investigation of the belief in the Tylwyth Teg, 

* Sir John Rhys tells me that this Snowdon fairy-lore was contributed 
by the late Lady Rhys, who as a girl lived in the neighbourhood of Snowdon 
and heard very much from the old people there, most of whom believed 
in the fairies ; and she herself then used to be warned, in the manner 
mentioned, against being carried away into the under-lake Fairyland. 

* Cf. Celtic Folklore, Welsh and Manx, pp. 683-4 n., where Sir John Rhys 
says of his friend. Professor A. C. Haddon : — ' I find also that he, among 
others, has anticipated me in my theory as to the origins of the fairies : 
witness the following extract from the syllabus of a lecture delivered by 
him at Cardiff in 1894 on Fairy Tales : — " What are the fairies ? — Legendary 
origin of the fairies. It is evident from fairy literature that there is a 
mixture of the possible and the impossible, of fact and fancy. Part of fairy- 
dom refers to (i) spirits that never were embodied : other fairies are 
(2) spirits of environment, nature or local spirits, and household or domestic 
spirits ; (3) spirits of the organic world, spirits of plants, and spirits of 
animals ; (4) spirits of men, or ghosts ; and (5) witches and wizards, or 
men possessed with other spirits. All these, and possibly other elements, 
enter into the fanciful aspects of Fairyland, but there is a large residuum of 
real occurrences ; these point to a clash of races, and we may regard many 
of these fairy sagas as stories told by men of the Iron Age of events which 
happtaed to men of the Bronze Age in their conflicts with men of the 
Neolithic Age, and possibly these, too, handed on traditions of the Paleo- 
lithic Agej" ' 


or ' Fair Folk ' in the Isle of Anglesey or Mona, the ancient 
stronghold of the Druids, we shall see clearly that the testi- 
mony offered by thoroughly reliable and prominent native 
witnesses is surprisingly uniform, and essentially animistic 
in its nature ; and in passing southward to the end of Wales 
we shall find the Welsh Fairy-Faith with this same uniformity 
and exhibiting the same animistic background everywhere 
we go. 

Testimony of an Anglesey Bard 

Mr. John Louis Jones, of Gaerwen, Anglesey, a native 
bard who has taken prizes in various Eisteddfods, testifies 
as follows : — 

Tylwyth Teg's Visits. — * When I was a boy here on the 
island, the Tylwyth Teg were described as a race of little 
beings no larger than children six or seven years old, who 
visited farm-houses at night after all the family were abed. 
No matter how securely closed a house might be, the Tylwyth 
Teg had no trouble to get in. I remember how the old folk 
used to make the house comfortable and put fresh coals on 
the fire, saying, ** Perhaps the Tylwyth Teg will come to- 
night." Then the Tylwyth Teg, when they did come, would 
look round the ropm and say, " What a clean beautiful place 
this is ! " And all the while the old folk in bed were listen- 
ing. Before departing from such a clean house the Tylwyth 
Teg always left a valuable present for the family.* 

Fairy Wife and Iron Taboo. — * A young man once caught 
one of the Tylwyth Teg women, and she agreed to live with 
him on condition that he should never touch her with iron. 
One day she went to a field with him to catch a horse, but 
in catching the horse he threw the bridle in such a way that 
the bit touched the Tylwyth Teg woman, and all at once she 
was gone. As this story indicates, the Tylwyth Teg could 
make themselves invisible. I think they could be seen by 
some people and not by other people. The old folk thought 
them a kind of spirit race from a spirit world.' 


Evidence from Central Anglesey 

Owing to the very kindly assistance of Mr. E. H. Thomas, 
of Llangefni, who introduced me to the oldest inhabitants 
of his town, in their own homes and elsewhere, and then 
acted as interpreter whenever Welsh alone was spoken, 
I gleaned very clear evidence from that part of Central 
Anglesey. Seven witnesses, two of whom were women, 
ranging in age from seventy-two to eighty-nine years, were 
thus interviewed, and each of them stated that in their 
childhood the belief in the Tylwyth Teg as a non-human 
race of good little people — by one witness compared to 
singing angels — was general. Mr. John Jones, the oldest of 
the seven, among much else, said in Welsh : — * I believe 
personally that the Tylwyth Teg are still existing ; but people 
can't see them. I have heard of two or three persons being 
together and one only having been able to see the Tylwyth 

Testimony from Two Anglesey Centenarians 

Perhaps nowhere else in Celtic lands could there be found 
as witnesses two sisters equal in age to Miss Mary Owen and 
Mrs. Betsy Thomas, in their hundred and third and hun- 
dredth year respectively (in 1909) . They live a quiet life on 
their mountain-side farm overlooking the sea, in the beauti- 
ful country near Pentraeth, quite away from the rush and 
noise of the great world of commercial activity ; and they 
speak only the tongue which their prehistoric Kimric ances- 
tors spoke before Roman, or Saxon, or Norman came to 
Britain. Mr. W. Jones, of Plas Tinon, their neighbour, who 
knows English and Welsh well, acted as interpreter. The 
elder sister testified first : — 

* Tylwyth Teg's ' Nature. — * There were many of the Tyl- 
wyth Teg on the Llwydiarth Mountain above here, and 
round the Llwydiarth Lake where they used to dance ; and 
whenever the prices at the Llangefni market were to be 
high they would chatter very much at night. They appeared 
only after dark ; and all the good they ever did was singing 


and dancing. Ann Jones, whom I knew very well, used 
often to see the Tylwyth Teg dancing and singing, but if she 
then went up to them they would disappear. She told me 
they are an invisible people, and very small. Many others 
besides Ann Jones have seen the Tylwyth Teg in these moun- 
tains, and have heard their music and song. The ordinary 
opinion was that the Tylwyth Teg are a race of spirits. 
I believe in them as an invisible race of good little people.* 
Fairy Midwife and Magic Oil. — * The Tylwyth Teg had 
a kind of magic oil, and I remember this story about it : — 
A farmer went to Llangefni to fetch a woman to nurse his 
wife about to become a mother, and he found one of the 
Tylwyth Teg, who came with him on the back of his horse. 
Arrived at the farm-house, the fairy woman looked at the 
wife, and giving the farmer some oil told him to wash the 
baby in it as soon as it was born. Then the fairy woman 
disappeared. The farmer followed the advice, and what 
did he do in washing the baby but get some oil on one of 
his own eyes. Suddenly he could see the Tylwyth Teg, for 
the oil had given him the second-sight. Some time later the 
farmer was in Llangefni again, and saw the same fairy woman 
who had given him the oil. " How is your wife getting 
on ? " she asked him. " She is getting on very well," he 
replied. Then the fairy woman added, " Tell me with which 
eye you see me best." "With this one," he said, pointing 
to the eye he had rubbed with the oil. And the fairy woman 
put her stick in that eye, and the farmer never saw with 
it again.' ^ 

* This is the one tale I have found in North Wales about a midwife and 
fairies — a type of tale common to West Ireland, Isle of Man, Cornwall, 
and Brittany, but in a reverse version, the midwife there being (as she is 
sometimes in Welsh versions) one of the human race called in by fairies. 
If evidence of the oneness of the Celtic mind were needed we should find 
it here (cf. pp. 50, 54, 127, 175, 182, 205). There are in this type of fairy-tale, 
as the advocates of the Pygmy Theory may well hold, certain elements most 
likely traceable to a folk-memory of some early race, or special class of 
some early race, who knew the secrets of midwifery and the use of medicines 
when such knowledge was considered magical. But in each example of 
this midwife story there is the germ idea — ^no matter what other ideas 
cluster round it — that fairies, like spirits, are only to be seen by an extra- 
human vision, or, as psychical researchers might say, by clairvoyance. 


Seeing ' Tylwyth Teg *. — The younger sister's testimony 
is as follows : — * I saw one of the Tylwyth Teg about sixty 
years ago, near the Tynymyndd Farm, as I was passing by 
at night. He was like a little man. When I approached 
him he disappeared suddenly. I have heard about the 
dancing and singing of the Tylwyth Teg, but never have 
heard the music myself. The old people said the Tylwyth 
Teg could appear and disappear when they liked ; and 
I think as the old people did, that they are some sort of 

Testimony from an Anglesey Seeress 

At Pentraeth, Mr. Gwilyn Jones said to me : — * It always 
was and still is the opinion that the Tylwyth Teg are a race 
of spirits. Some people think them small in size, but the 
one my mother saw was ordinary human size.' At this, 
I immediately asked Mr. Jones if his mother was still living, 
and he replying that she was, gave me her address in Llan- 
fair. So I went directly to interview Mr. Jones's mother, 
Mrs. Catherine Jones, and this is the story about the one of 
the Tylwyth Teg she saw : — 

' Tylwyth Teg ' Apparition.—' I was coming home at 
about half-past ten at night from Cemaes, on the path to 
Simdda Wen, where I was in service, when there appeared 
just before me a very pretty young lady of ordinary size. 
I had no fear, and when I came up to her put out my 
hand to touch her, but my hand and arm went right through 
her form. I could not understand this, and so tried to 
touch her repeatedly with the same result ; there was no 
solid substance in the body, yet it remained beside me, 
and was as beautiful a young lady as I ever saw. When 
I reached the door of the house where I was to stop, she 
was still with me. Then I said " Good night " to her. No 
response being made, I asked, " Why do you not speak ? " 
And at this she disappeared. Nothing happened afterwards, 
and I always put this beautiful young lady down as one 
of the Tylwyth Teg. There was much talk about my ex- 
perience when I reported it, and the neighbours, like myself, 


thought I had seen one of the Tylwyth Teg. I was about 
twenty-four years old at the time of this incident.' ^ 

Testimony from a Professor of Welsh 

Just before crossing the Menai Straits I had the good 
fortune to meet, at his home in Llanfair, Mr. J. Morris 
Jones, M.A. (Oxon.), Professor of Welsh in the University 
College at Bangor, and he, speaking of the fairy-belief in 
Anglesey as he remembers it from boyhood days, said : — 

* Tylwyth Teg.' — * In most of the tales I heard repeated 
when I was a boy, I am quite certain the implication was 
that the Tylwyth Teg were a kind of spirit race having 
human characteristics, who could at will suddenly appear 
and suddenly disappear. They were generally supposed to 
live underground, and to come forth on moonlight nights, 
dressed in gaudy colours (chiefly in red), to dance in circles 
in grassy fields. I cannot remember having heard changeling 
stories here in the Island : I think the Tylwyth Teg were 
generally looked upon as kind and good-natured, though 
revengeful if not well treated. And they were believed to 
have plenty of money at their command, which they could 
bestow on people whom they liked.* 

Evidence from North Carnarvonshire 

Upon leaving Anglesey I undertook some investigation 
of the Welsh fairy-belief in the country between Bangor 
and Carnarvon. From the oldest Welsh people of Treborth 

* After this remarkable story, Mrs. Jones told me about another very 

rare psychical experience of her own, which is here recorded because it 
illustrates the working of the psychological law of the association of ideas : 
— ' My husband, Price Jones, was drowned some forty years ago, within 
four miles of Arms Head, near Bangor, on Friday at midday ; and that 
night at about one o'clock he appeared to me in our bedroom and laid his 
head on my breast. I tried to ask him where he came from, but before 
I could get my breath he was gone. I believed at the time that he was 
out at sea perfectly safe and well. But next day, Saturday, at about 
noon, a message came announcing his death. I was as fully awake as 
one can be when I thus saw the spirit of my husband. He returned to me 
a second time about six months later.' Had this happened in West Ireland, 
it is almost certain that public opinion would have declared that Price 
Jones had been taken by the ' gentry ' or ' good people '. 


I heard the same sort of folk-lore as we have recorded from 
Anglesey, except that prominence was given to a flourishing 
belief in Bwganod, goblins or bogies. But from Mr. T. T. 
Davis Evans, of Port Dinorwic, I heard the following very 
unusual story based on facts, as he recalled it first hand : — 
Joneses Vision. — William Jones, who some sixty years 
ago declared he had seen the Tylwyth Teg in the Aber- 
glaslyn Pass near Beddgelert, was publicly questioned about 
them in Bethel Chapel by Mr. Griffiths, the minister ; and he 
explained before the congregation that the Lord had given 
him a special vision which enabled him to see the Tylwyth 
Teg, and that, therefore, he had seen them time after time 
as little men playing along the river in the Pass. The 
minister induced Jones to repeat the story many times, 
because it seemed to please the congregation very much ; 
and the folks present looked upon Jones's vision as a most 
wonderful thing.* 

Evidence from South Carnarvonshire 

To Mr. E. D. Rowlands, head master of the schools 
at Afonwen, I am indebted for a summary of the fairy- 
belief in South Carnarvonshire : — 

* Tylwyth Teg,' — ' According to the belief in South Car- 
narvonshire, the Tylwyth Teg were a small, very pretty 
people always dressed in white, and much given to dancing 
and singing in rings where grass grew. As a rule, they 
were visible only at night ; though in the day-time, if 
a mother while hay-making was so unwise as to leave her 
babe alone in the field, the Tylwyth Teg might take it and 
leave in its place a hunchback, or some deformed object 
like a child. At night, the Tylwyth Teg would entice 
travellers to join their dance and then play all sorts of 
tricks on them.' ^ 

Fo^iry Cows and Fairy Lake-Women. — * Some of the 

* Here we find the Tylwyth Teg showing quite the same characteristics 
as Welsh elves in general, as Cornish pixies, and as Breton corrigans, or 
lutins ; that is, given to dancing at night, to stealing children, and to 
deceiving travellers. 


Tylwyth Teg lived in caves ; others of them Hved in lake- 
bottoms. There is a lake called Llyn y Morwynion, or 
" Lake of the Maidens " , near Festiniog, where, as the 
story goes, a farmer one morning found in his field a number 
of very fine cows such as he had never seen before. Not 
knowing where they came from, he kept them a long time, 
when, as it happened, he committed some dishonest act 
and, as a result, women of the Tylwyth Teg made their 
appearance in the pasture and, calling the cows by name, 
led the whole herd into the lake, and with them disappeared 
beneath its waters. The old people never could explain 
the nature of the Tylwyth Teg, but they always regarded 
them as a very mysterious race, and, according to this 
story of the cattle, as a supernatural race.* 

Evidence from Merionethshire 

Mr. Louis Foster Edwards, of Harlech, recalling the 
memories of many years ago, offers the following evidence : — 

Scythe-Blades and Fairies. — * In an old inn on the other 
side of Harlech there was to be an entertainment, and, as 
usual on such occasions, the dancing would not cease until 
morning. I noticed, before the guests had all arrived, that 
the landlady was putting scythe-blades edge upwards up 
into the large chimney, and, wondering why it was, asked 
her. She told me that the fairies might come before the 
entertainment was over, and that if the blades were turned 
edge upwards it would prevent the fairies from troubling 
the party, for they would be unable to pass the blades 
without being cut.' 

' Tylwyth Teg ' and their World. — * There was an idea 
that the Tylwyth Teg lived by plundering at night. It 
was thought, too, that if anything went wrong with cows 
or horses the Tylwyth Teg were to blame. As a race, the 
Tylwyth Teg were described as having the power of invisi- 
bility ; and it was believed they could disappear like a 
spirit while one happened to be observing them. The 
world in which they lived was a world quite unlike ours, 
and mortals taken to it by them were changed in nature. 


The way a mortal might be taken by the Tylwyth Teg was 
by being attracted into their dance. If they thus took 
you away, it would be according to our time for twelve 
months, though to you the time would seem no more than 
a night/ 

Fairy Tribes in Montgomeryshire 

From Mr. D. Davies-Williams, who outlined for me the 
Montgomeryshire belief in the Tylwyth Teg as he has known 
it intimately, I learned that this is essentially the same as 
elsewhere in North and Central Wales. He summed up 
the matter by saying : — 

Belief in Tylwyth Teg. — ' It was the opinion that the 
Tylwyth Teg were a real race of invisible or spiritual beings 
living in an invisible world of their own. The belief in the 
Tylwyth Teg was quite general fifty or sixty years ago, and 
as sincere as any religious belief is now.' 

Our next witness is the Rev. Josiah Jones, minister of 
the Congregational Church of Machynlleth ; and, after a 
lifetime's experience in Montgomeryshire, he gives this 
testimony : — 

A Deacons Vision. — * A deacon in my church, John 
Evans, declared that he had seen the Tylwyth Teg dancing 
in the day-time, within two miles from here, and he pointed 
out the very spot where they appeared. This was some 
twenty years ago. I think, however, that he saw only 
certain reflections and shadows, because it was a hot and 
brilliant day.' 

Folk-Beliefs in General. — * As I recall the belief, the old 
people considered the Tylwyth Teg as living beings half- 
way between something material and spiritual, who were 
rarely seen. When I was a boy there was very much 
said, too, about corpse-candles and phantom funerals, and 
especially about the Bwganod, plural of Bwgan, meaning 
a sprite, ghost, hobgoblin, or spectre. The Bwganod were 
supposed to appear at dusk, in various forms, animal and 
human ; and grown-up people as well as children had great 
fear of them.* 



A Minister's Opinion. — ' Ultimately there is a substance 
of truth in the fairy-belief, but it is wrongly accounted for 
in the folk-lore : I once asked Samuel Roberts, of Llan- 
brynmair, who was quite a noted Welsh scholar, what he 
thought of the Tylwyth Teg, of hobgoblins, spirits, and so 
forth ; and he said that he believed such things existed, and 
that God allowed them to appear in times of great igno- 
rance to convince people of the existence of an invisible 

In Cardiganshire ; and a Folk-lorist's Testimony 

No one of our witnesses from Central Wales is more 
intimately acquainted with the living folk-beliefs than 
Mr. J. Ceredig Davies, of Llanilar, a village about six miles 
from Aberystwyth ; for Mr. Davies has spent many years 
in collecting folk-lore in Central and South Wales. He has 
interviewed the oldest and most intelligent of the old people, 
and while I write this he has in the press a work entitled 
The Folk-Lore of Mid and West Wales. Mr. Davies very 
kindly gave me the following outline of the most prominent 
traits in the Welsh fairy-belief according to his own investi- 
gations : — 

* Tylwyth Teg \ — ' The Tylwyth Teg were considered a very 
small people, fond of dancing, especially on moonlight nights. 
They often came to houses after the family were abed ; and 
if milk was left for them, they would leave money in return ; 
but if not treated kindly they were revengeful. The change- 
ling idea was common : the mother coming home would 
find an ugly changeling in the cradle. Sometimes the mother 
would consult the Dynion Hysbys, or " Wise Men " as to 
how to get her babe back. As a rule, treating the fairy babe 
roughly and then throwing it into a river would cause the 
fairy who made the change to appear and restore the real 
child in return for the changeling.' 

* Tylwyth Teg ' Marriage Contracts. — * Occasionally a young 
man would see the Tylwyth Teg dancing, and, being drawn 
into the dance, would be taken by them and married to one 
of their women. There is usually some condition in the 


marriage contract which becomes broken, and, as a result, 
the fairy wife disappears — usually into a lake. The marriage 
contract specifies either that the husband must never touch 
his fairy wife with iron, or else never beat or strike her 
three times. Sometimes when fairy wives thus disappear, 
they take with them into the lake their fairy cattle and all 
their household property.' 

* Tylwyth Teg ' Habitations. — * The Tylwyth Teg were 
generally looked upon as an immortal race. In Cardigan- 
shire they lived underground ; in Carmarthenshire in lakes ; 
and in Pembrokeshire along the sea-coast on enchanted 
islands amid the Irish Sea. I have heard of sailors upon 
seeing such islands trying to reach them ; but when ap- 
proached, the islands always disappeared. From a certain 
spot in Pembrokeshire, it is said that by standing on a turf 
taken from the yard of St. David's Cathedral, one may see 
the enchanted islands.' ^ 

* Tylwyth Teg ' as Spirits of Druids. — ' By many of the 
old people the Tylwyth Teg were classed with spirits. They 
were not looked upon as mortal at all. Many of the Welsh 
looked upon the Tylwyth Teg or fairies as the spirits of 
Druids dead before the time of Christ, who being too good 
to be cast into Hell were allowed to wander freely about on 

Testimony from a Welshman Ninety-four Years Old 

At Pontrhydfendigaid, a village about two miles from the 
railway-station called Strata Florida, I had the good fortune 
to meet Mr. John Jones, ninety-four years old, yet of strong 
physique, and able to write his name without eye-glasses. 
Both Mr. J. H. Davies, Registrar of the University College 
of Aberystwyth, and Mr. J. Ceredig Davies, the eminent 
folk-lorist of Llanilar, referred me to Mr. John Jones as 
one of the most remarkable of living Welshmen who could 
tell about the olden times from first-hand knowledge. 

* This folk-belief partially sustains the view put forth in our chapter on 
Environment, that St. David's during pagan times was already a sacred 
spot and perhaps then the seat of a druidic oracle. 



Mr. John Jones speaks very little English, and Mr. John 
Rees, of the Council School, acted as our interpreter. This 
is the testimony : — 

Pygmy-sized ' Tylwyth Teg '. — * I was born and bred where 
there was tradition that the Tylwyth Teg lived in holes 
in the hills, and that none of these Tylwyth Teg was taller 
than three to four feet. It was a common idea that many 
of the Tylwyth Teg, forming in a ring, would dance and sing 
out on the mountain-sides, or on the plain, and that if 
children should meet with them at such a time they would 
lose their way and never get out of the ring. If the Tylwyth 
Teg fancied any particular child they would always keep 
that child, taking off its clothes and putting them on one of 
their own children, which was then left in its place. They 
took only boys, never girls.' 

Human-sized ' Tylwyth Teg *. — * A special sort of Tylwyth 
Teg used to come out of lakes and dance, and their fine 
looks enticed young men to follow them back into the lakes, 
and there marry one of them. If the husband wished to^ 
leave the lake he had to go without his fairy wife. This sort 
of Tylwyth Teg were as big as ordinary people ; and they 
were often seen riding out of the lakes and back again on 

* Tylwyth Teg ' as Spirits of Prehistoric Race. — ' My grand- 
father told me that he was once in a certain field and heard 
singing in the air, and thought it spirits singing. Soon 
afterwards he and his brother in digging dikes in that field 
dug into a big hole, which they entered and followed to the 
end. There they found a place full of human bones and 
urns, and naturally decided on account of the singing that 
the bones and urns were of the Tylwyth Teg.' ^ 

A Boy's Visit to the * Tylwyth Teg's ' King. — ' About 

* Here we have an example of the Tylwyth Teg being identified with 

a prehistoric race, quite in accordance with the argument of the Pygmy 
Theory. We have, however, as the essential idea, that the Tylwyth Teg 
heard singing were the spirits of this prehistoric race. Thus our conten- 
tion that ancestral spirits play a leading part in the fairy-belief is sustained, 
and the Pygmy Theory appears quite at its true relative value — as able 
to explain one subordinate ethnological strand in the complex fabric of 
the belief. 


eighty years ago, at Tynylone, my grandfather told me this 
story : "A boy ten years old was often whipped and cruelly 
treated by his schoolmaster because he could not say his 
lessons very well. So one day he ran away from school and 
went to a river-side, where some little folk came to him 
and asked why he was crying. He told them the master had 
punished him ; and on hearing this they said, * Oh ! if you 
will stay with us it will not be necessary for you to go to 
school. We will keep you as long as you like.* Then they 
took him under the water and over the water into a cave 
underground, which opened into a great palace where the 
Tylwyth Teg were playing games with golden balls, in rings 
like those in which they dance and sing. The boy had been 
taken to the king's family, and he began to play with the 
king's sons. After he had been there in the palace in the 
full enjoyment of all its pleasures he wished very much to 
return to his mother and show her the golden ball which the 
Tylwyth Teg gave him. And so he took the ball in his pocket 
and hurried through the cave the way he had come ; but at 
the end of it and by the river two of the Tylwyth Teg met 
him, and taking the ball away from him they pushed him 
into the water, and through the water he found his way 
home. He told his mother how he had been away for a 
fortnight, as he thought, but she told him it had been for 
two years. Though the boy often tried to find the way back 
to the Tylwyth Teg he never could. Finally, he went back to 
school, and became a most wonderful scholar and parson.'"^ 

In Merlin's Country ; and a Vicar's Testimony 

The Rev. T. M. Morgan, vicar of Newchurch parish, two 
miles from Carmarthen, has made a very careful study of 
the folk-traditions in his own parish and in other regions 

* This story is much like the one recorded by Giraldus Cambrensis about 
a boy going to Fairyland and returning to his mother (see this study, 
p. 324). The possibility that it may be an independent version of the folk- 
tale told to Cambrensis which has continued to live on among the people 
makes it highly interesting. 

Afr. Jones gives further evidence on the re-birth doctrine in Wales 
(pp. 388-9), and concerning Merlin and sacrifice to appease place-spirits 
(pp. 436-7). ' 


of Carmarthenshire, and is able to offer us evidence of the 
highest vcdue, as follows : — * 

' Tylwyth Teg ' Power over Children. — * The Tylwyth Teg 
were thought to be able to take children. " You mind, or 
the Tylwyth Teg will take you away," parents would say to 
keep their children in the house after dark. It was an 
opinion, too, that the Tylwyth Teg could transform good 
children into kings and queens, and bad children into 
wicked spirits, after such children had been taken — perhaps 
in death. The Tylwyth Teg were believed to live in some 
invisible world to which children on dying might go to be 
rewarded or punished, according to their behaviour on this 
earth. Even in this life the Tylwyth Teg had power over 
children for good or evil. The belief, as these ideas show, 
was that the Tylwyth Teg were spirits.' 

' Tylwyth Teg ' as Evil Spirits. — A few days after my 
return to Oxford, the Rev. T. M. Morgan, through his son, 
Mr. Basil I. Morgan, of Jesus College, placed in my hands 
additional folk-lore evidence from his own parish, as follows : 
— * After Mr. Wentz visited me on Thursday, September 30, 
1909, I went to see Mr. Shem Morgan, the occupier of 
Cwmcastellfach farm, an old man about seventy years old. 
He told me that in his childhood days a great dread of the 
fairies occupied the heart of every child. They were con- 
sidered to be evil spirits who visited our world at night, 
and dangerous to come in contact with ; there were no good 
spirits among them. He related to me three narratives 
touching the fairies ' : — 

' Tylwyth Teg's ' Path. — The first narrative illustrates that 
the Tylwyth Teg have paths (precisely like those reserved 
for the Irish good people or for the Breton dead), and that 
it is death to a mortal while walking in one of these paths 
to meet the Tylwyth Teg. 

* Tylwyth Teg ' Divination. — The second narrative I quote : 
— * A farmer of this neighbourhood having lost his cattle, 

* As a result of his researches, the Rev. T. M. Morgan has just published 
a new work, entitled The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Newchurch 
(Carmarthen, 19 10). 


went to consult y dyn hysbys (a diviner), in Cardiganshire, 
who was friendly with the fairies. Whenever the fairies 
visited the diviner they foretold future events, secrets, and 
the whereabouts of lost property. After the farmer reached 
the diviner's house the diviner showed him the fairies, and 
then when the diviner had consulted them he told the farmer 
to go home as soon as he could and that he would find the 
cattle in such and such a place. The farmer did as he was 
directed, and found the cattle in the very place where the 
dyn hysbys told him they would be.' And the third narrative 
asserts that a man in the parish of Trelech who was fraudu- 
lently excluded by means of a false will from inheriting the 
estate of his deceased father, discovered the defrauder and 
recovered the estate, solely through having followed the 
advice given by the Tylwyth Teg, when (again as in the above 
account) they were called up as spirits by a dyn hysbys, 
a Mr. Harries, of Cwrt y Cadno, a place near Aberyst- 

Testimony from a Justice of the Peace 

Mr. David Williams, J. P., who is a member of the Cymmro- 
dorion Society of Carmarthen, and who has sat on the 
judicial bench for ten years, offers us the very valuable 
evidence which follows : — 

* Tylwyth Teg ' and their King and Queen. — * The general 
idea, as I remember it, was that the Tylwyth Teg were only 
visitors to this world, and had no terrestrial habitations. 
They were as small in stature as dwarfs, and always appeared 
in white. Often at night they danced in rings amid green 
fields. Most of them were females, though they had a king ; 
and, as their name suggests, they were very beautiful in 
appearance. The king of the Tylwyth Teg was called Gwydion 

* In these last two anecdotes, as in modern ' Spiritualism ', we observe 
a popular practice of necromancy or the calling up of spirits, so-called 
' materialization ' of spirits, and spirit communication through a human 
' medium ', who is the dyn hysbys, as well as divination, the revealing of 
things hidden and the foretelling of future events. This is direct evidence 
that Welsh fairies or the Tylwyth Teg were formerly the same to Welshmen 
as spirits are to Spiritualists now. We seem, therefore, to have proof of 
our Psychological Theory (see chap. xi). 


ab Don, Gwyd referring to a temperament in man's nature. 
His residence was among the stars, and called Caer Gwydion. 
His queen was Gwenhidw. I have heard my mother call 
the small fleece-like clouds which appear in fine weather the 
Sheep of Gwenhidw.' ^ 

' Tylwyth Teg' as Aerial Beings, — Mr. Williams's testimony 
continues, and leads us directly to the Psychological or 
Psychical Theory : — ' As aerial beings the Tylwyth Teg could 
fly and move about in the air at will. They were a special 
order of creation. I never heard that they grew old ; and 
whether they multiplied or not I cannot tell. In character 
they were almost always good.' 

Ghosts and Apparitions. — Our conversation finally drifted 
towards ghosts and apparitions, as usual, and to Druids. In 
the chapter dealing with Re-birth (pp. 390-1) we shall record 
what Mr. Williams said about Druids, and here what he said 
about ghosts and apparitions : — * Sixty years ago there was 
hardly an individual who did not believe in apparitions ; 
and in olden times Welsh families would collect round the 
fire at night and each in turn give a story about the Tylwyth 
Teg and ghosts.* 

Conferring Vision of a Phantom Funeral. — * There used to 
be an old man at Newchurch named David Davis (who 
lived about 1780-1840), of Abernant, noted for seeing 

* Here we have a combination of many distinct elements and influences. 
As among mortals, so among the Tylwyth Teg there is a king ; and this 
conception may have arisen directly from anthropomorphic influences on 
the ancient Brythonic religion, or it may have come directly from 
druidic teachings. The locating of Gwydion ab Don, like a god, 
in a heaven-world, rather than like his counterpart, Gwynn ah Ntidd, in 
a hades-world, is probably due to a peculiar admixture of Druidism and 
Christianity : at first, both gods were probably druidic or pagan, and the 
same, but Gwynn ab Nudd became a demon or evil god under Christian 
influences, while Gwydion ab Don seems to have curiously retained his 
original good reputation in spite of Christianity (cf. p. 320). The name 
Gwenhidw reminds us at once of Arthur's queen Gwenhwyvar or ' White 
Apparition ' ; and the sheep of Gwenhidw can properly be explained 
by the Naturalistic Theory. It seems, however, that analogy was 
imaginatively suggested between the Queen Gwenhidw as resembling the 
Welsh White Lady or a ghost-like being, and her sheep, the clouds, also of 
a necessarily ghost-like character. All this is an admirable illustration 
of the great complexity of the Fairy-Faith. 


phantom funerals. One appeared to him once when he was 
with a friend. " Do you see it ? Do you see it ? " the old 
man excitedly asked. " No/' said his friend. Then the 
old man placed his foot on his friend's foot, and said, " Do 
you see it now ? " And the friend replied that he did.' ^ 

Magic and Witchcraft. — Finally, we shall hear from Mr. 
Williams about Welsh magic and witchcraft, which cannot 
scientifically be divorced from the belief in fairies and 
apparitions : — * There used to be much witchcraft in this 
country ; and it was fully believed that some men, if ad- 
vanced scholars, had the power to injure or to bewitch their 
neighbours by magic. The more advanced the scholar the 
better he could carry on his craft.* -> ^..^^^ 

Additional Evidence from Carmarthenshire 

My friend, and fellow student at Jesus College, Mr. 
Percival V. Davies, of Carmarthen, contributes, as supple- 
mentary to what has been recorded above, the following 
evidence, from his great-aunt, Mrs. Spurrell, also of Car- 
marthen, a native Welshwoman who has seen a canwyll 
gorff (corpse-candle) : — 

Bendith y Mamau. — * In the Carmarthenshire country, 
fairies (Tylwyth Teg) are often called Bendith y Mamau, the 
•' Mothers* Blessing." ' 

How Ten Children Became Fairies. — * Our Lord, in the days 
when He walked the earth, chanced one day to approach 
a cottage in which lived a woman with twenty children. 
Feeling ashamed of the size of her family, she hid half of 
them from the sight of her divine visitor. On His departure 
she sought for the hidden children in vain ; they had become 
fairies and had disappeared.' 

In Pembrokeshire ; at the Pentre Evan Cromlech 

Our Pembrokeshire witness is a maiden Welshwoman, 
sixty years old, who speaks no English, but a university 
graduate, her nephew, will act as our interpreter. She was 

* The parallel between this Welsh method of conferring vision and the 
Breton method is very striking (cf. p. 215). 


born and has lived all her life within sight of the famous 
Pentre Evan Cromlech, in the home of her ancestors, which 
is so ancient that after six centuries of its known existence 
further record of it is lost. In spite of her sixty years, our 
witness is as active as many a city woman of forty or forty- 
five. Since her girlhood she has heard curious legends and 
stories, and, with a more than ordinary interest in the lore 
of her native country, has treasured them all in her clear 
and well-trained memory. The first night, while this well- 
stored memory of hers gave forth some of its treasures, we 
sat in her own home, I and my friend, her nephew, on one 
side in a chimney-seat, and she and her niece on the other 
side in another, exposed to the cheerful glow and warmth 
of the fire. When we had finished that first night it was two 
o'clock, and there had been no interruption to the even flow 
of marvels and pretty legends. A second night we spent 
likewise. What follows now is the result, so far as we are 
concerned with it : — 

Fairies and Spirits. — * Spirits and fairies exist all round 
us, invisible. Fairies have no solid bodily substance. Their 
forms are of matter like ghostly bodies, and on this account 
they cannot be caught. In the twilight they are often seen, 
and on moonlight nights in summer. Only certain people 
can see fairies, and such people hold communication with 
them and have desdings with them, but it is difficult to get 
them to talk about fairies. I think the spirits about us are 
the fallen angels, for when old Doctor Harris died his books 
on witchcraft had to be burned in order to free the place 
where he lived from evil spirits. The fairies, too, are some- 
times called the fallen angels. They will do good to those 
who befriend them, and harm to others. I think there must 
be an intermediate state between life on earth and heavenly 
life, and it may be in this that spirits and fairies live. There 
are two distinct types of spirits : one is good and the other 
is bad. I have heard of people going to the fairies and 
finding that years passed as days, but I do not believe in 
changelings, though there are stories enough about them. 
That there are fairies and other spirits like them, both good 


and bad, I firmly believe. My mother used to tell about 
seeing the " fair-folk " dancing in the fields near Cardigan ; 
and other people have seen them round the cromlech up 
there on the hill (the Pentre Evan Cromlech) . They appeared 
as little children in clothes like soldiers' clothes, and with 
red caps, according to some accounts. 

Death-Candles Described. — ' I have seen more than one 
death-candle. I saw one death-candle right here in this 
room where we are sitting and talking.* I was told by the 
nephew and niece of our present witness that this particular 
death-candle took an untrodden course from the house 
across the fields to the grave-yard, and that when the death 
of one of the family occurred soon afterwards, their aunt 
insisted that the corpse should be carried by exactly the 
same route ; so the road was abandoned and the funeral 
went through the ploughed fields. Here is the description 
of the death-candle as the aunt gave it in response to our 
request : — ' The death-candle appears like a patch of bright 
light ; and no matter how dark the room or place is, every- 
thing in it is as clear as day. The candle is not a flame, but 
a luminous mass, lightish blue in colour, which dances as 
though borne by an invisible agency, and sometimes it rolls 
over and over. If you go up to the light it is nothing, for it 
is a spirit. Near here a light as big as a pot was seen, and 
rays shot out from it in all directions. The man you saw 
here in the house to-day, one night as he was going along 
the road near Nevern, saw the death-light of old Dr. Harris, 
and says it was lightish green.' 

Gors Goch Fairies. — Now we began to hear more about 
fairies : — * One night there came a strange rapping at the 
door of the ancient manor on the Gors Goch farm over in 
Cardiganshire, and the father of the family asked what was 
wanted. Thin, silvery voices said they wanted a warm 
place in which to dress their children and to tidy them up. 
The door opened then, and in came a dozen or more little 
beings, who at once set themselves to hunting for a basin 
and water, and to cleaning themselves. At daybreak they 
departed, leaving a pretty gift in return for the kindness. 


In this same house at another time, whether by the same 
party of Httle beings or by another could not be told, 
a healthy child of the family was changed because he was 
unbaptized, and a frightful-looking child left in his place. 
The mother finally died of grief, and the other children died 
because of the loss of their mother, and the father was left 
alone. Then some time after this, the same little folks who 
came the first time returned to clean up, and when they de- 
parted, in place of their former gifts of silver, left a gift of gold. 
It was not long before the father became heir to a rich farm 
in North Wales, and going to live on it became a magician, 
for the little people, still befriending him, revealed themselves 
in their true nature and taught him all their secrets.* 

Levi Salmon's Control of Spirits. — * Levi Salmon, who 
lived about thirty years ago, between here and Newport, 
was a magician, and could call up good and bad spirits ; but 
was afraid to call up the bad ones unless another person 
was with him, for it was a dangerous and terrible ordeal. 
After consulting certain books which he had, he would draw 
a circle on the floor, and in a little while spirits like bulls 
and serpents and other animals would appear in it, and all 
sorts of spirits would speak. It was not safe to go near 
them ; and to control them Levi held a whip in his hand. 
He would never let them cross the circle. And when he 
wanted them to go away he always had to throw something 
to the chief spirit.' 

The Haunted Manor and the Golden Image. — I offer now, 
in my own language, the following remarkable story : — 
The ancient manor-house on the Trewern Farm (less than 
a mile from the Pentre Evan Cromlech) had been haunted 
as long as anybody could remember. Strange noises were 
often heard in it, dishes would dance about of their own 
accord, and sometimes a lady dressed in silk appeared. 
Many attempts were made to lay the ghosts, but none 
succeeded. Finally things got so bad that nobody wanted 
to live there. About eighty years ago the sole occupants of 

the haunted house were Mr. and his two servants. At 

the time, it was well known in the neighbourhood that all 


at once Mr. became very wealthy, and his servants 

seemed able to buy whatever they wanted. Everybody 
wondered, but no one could tell where the money came from ; 
for at first he was a poor man, and he couldn't have made 
much off the farm. The secret only leaked out through one 

of the servants after Mr. was dead. The servant 

declared to certain friends that one of the ghosts, or, as he 

thought, the Devil, appeared to Mr. and told him there 

was an image of great value walled up in the room over the 
main entrance to the manor. A search was made, and, sure 
enough, a large image of solid gold was found in the very 

place indicated, built into a recess in the wall. Mr. 

bound the servants to secrecy, and began to turn the image 
into money. He would cut off small pieces of the image, 
one at a time, and take them to London and sell them. In 
this way he sold the whole image, and nobody was the wiser. 
After the image was found and disposed of, ghosts were no 
longer seen in the house, nor were unusual noises heard in 
it at night. The one thing which beyond all doubt is true 

is that when Mr. died he left his son an estate worth 

about £50,000 (an amount probably greatly in excess of 
the true one) ; and people have always wondered ever since 
where it came from, if not in part from the golden image.^ 

* This is the substance of the story as it was told to me by a gentleman 
who lives within sight of the farm where the image is said to have been 
found. And one day he took me to the house and showed me the room 
and the place in the wall where the find was made. The old manor is one 
of the solidest and most picturesque of its kind in Wales, and, in spite of 
its extreme age, well preserved. He, being as a native Welshman of the 
locality well acquainted with its archaeology, thinks it safe to place an 
age of six to eight hundred years on the manor. What is interesting about 
this matter of age arises from the query, Was the image one of the Virgin 
or of some Christian saint, or was it a Druid idol ? Both opinions are 
current in the neighbourhood, but there is a good deal in favour of the second. 
The region, the little valley on whose side stands the Pentre Evan Crom- 
lech, the finest in Britain, is believed to have been a favourite place with 
the ancient Druids ; and in the oak groves which still exist there tradition 
says there was once a flourishing pagan school for neophytes, and that the 
cromlech instead of being a place for interments or for sacrifices was in 
those days completely enclosed, forming like other cromlechs a darkened 
chamber in which novices when initiated were placed for a certain number 
of days — the interior being called the ' Womb or Court of Ceridwen '. 


Hundreds of parallel stories in which, instead of ghosts, 
fairies and demons are said to have revealed hidden treasure 
could be cited. 

In the Gower Peninsula, Glamorganshire 

Our investigations in Glamorganshire cover the most 
interesting part, the peninsula of Gower, where there are 
peculiar folk-lore conditions, due to its present population 
being by ancestry English and Flemish as well as Cornish 
and Welsh. Despite this race admixture, Brythonic beliefs 
have generally survived in Gower even among the non- 
Celts ; and because of the Cornish element there are pixies, 
as shown by the following story related to me in Swansea 
by Mr. , a well-known mining engineer : — 

Pixies. — * At Newton, near the Mumbles (in Gower), an 
old woman, some twenty years ago, assured me that she 
had seen the pixies. Her father's grey mare was standing 
in the trap before the house ready to take some produce 
to the Swansea market, and when the time for departure 
arrived the pixies had come, but no one save the old woman 
could see them. She described them to me as like tiny men 
dancing on the mare's back and climbing up along the mare's 
mane. She thought the pixies some kind of spirits who 
made their appearance in early morning ; and all mishaps 
to cows she attributed to them.' 

Testimony from an Archaeologist 

The Rev. John David Davis, rector of Llanmadoc and 
Cheriton parishes, and a member of the Cambrian Archaeo- 
logical Society, has passed many years in studying the 
antiquities and folk-lore of Gower, being the author of 
various antiquarian works ; and he is without doubt the 
oldest and best living authority to aid us. The Rector very 
willingly offers this testimony : — 

Pixies and * Verry Volk '. — * In this part of Gower, the name 
Tylwyth Teg is never used to describe fairies ; Verry Volk 
is used instead. Some sixty years ago, as I can remember, 
there was belief in such fairies here in Gower, but now there 


is almost none. Belief in apparitions still exists to some 
extent. One may also hear of a person being pixy-led ; the 
pixies may cause a traveller to lose his way at night if he 
crosses a field where they happen to be. To take your coat 
off and turn it inside out wiU break the pixy spell.^ The 
Verry Volk were always little people dressed in scarlet and 
green ; and they generally showed themselves dancing on 
moonlight nights. I never heard of their making change- 
lings, though they had the power of doing good or evil acts, 
and it was a very risky thing to offend them. By nature 
they were benevolent.' 

A * Verry Volk ' Feast. — * I heard the following story many 
years ago : — The tenant on the Eynonsford Farm here in 
Gower had a dream one night, and in it thought he heard 
soft sweet music and the patter of dancing feet. Waking 
up, he beheld his cow-shed, which opened off his bedroom, 
filled with a multitude of little beings, about one foot high, 
swarming all over his fat ox, and they were preparing to 
slaughter the ox. He was so surprised that he could not 
move. In a short time the Verry Volk had killed, dressed, 
and eaten the animal. The feast being over, they collected 
the hide and bones, except one very small leg-bone which 
they could not find, placed them in position, then stretched 
the hide over them ; and, as the farmer looked, the ox 
appeared as sound and fat as ever, but when he let it out to 
pasture in the morning he observed that it had a slight 
lameness in the leg lacking the missing bone.' ^ 

^ The same remedy is prescribed in Brittany when mischievous lutins 
or corrigans lead a traveller astray, in Ireland when the good people lead 
a traveller astray ; and at RoUright, Oxfordshire, England, an old woman 
told me that it is efficacious against being led astray through witchcraft. 
Obviously the fairy and witch spell are alike. 

* The same sort of a story as this is told in Lower Brittany, where the 
corrigans or lutins slaughter a farmer's fat cow or ox and invite the farmer 
to partake of the feast it provides. If he does so with good grace and 
humour, he finds his cow or ox perfectly whole in the morning, but if he 
refuses to join the feast or joins it unwillingly, in the morning he is likely 
to find his cow or ox actually dead and eaten. 


Fairies Among Gower English Folk 

The population of the Llanmadoc region of Gower are 
generally English by ancestry and speech ; and not until 
reaching Llanmorlais, beyond Llanridian, did I find anything 
like an original Celtic and Welsh-speaking people, and these 
may have come into that part within comparatively recent 
times ; and yet, as the above place-names tend to prove, in 
early days all these regions must have been Welsh. It may 
be argued, however, that this English-speaking population 
may be more Celtic than Saxon, even though emigrants 
from England. In any case, we can see with interest how 
this so-called English population now echo Brythonic beliefs 
which they appear to have adopted in Gower, possibly 
sympathetically through race kinship ; and the following 
testimony offered by Miss Sarah Jenkins, postmistress of 
Llanmadoc, will enable us to do so : — 

Dancing with Fairies. — ' A man, whose Christian name was 
William, was enticed by the fairy folk to enter their dance, as 
he was on his way to the Swansea market in the early morning. 
They kept him dancing some time, and then said to him before 
they let him go, ** Will dance well ; the last going to market 
and the first that shall sell." And though he arrived at 
the market very late, he was the first to sell anything.' 

Fairy Money. — ' An old woman, whom I knew, used to 
find money left by the fairies every time they visited her 
house. For a long time she observed their request, and told 
no one about the money ; but at last she told, and so never 
found money afterwards. 

Nature of Fairies. — * The fairies (verry volk) were believed 
to have plenty of music and dancing. Sometimes they 
appeared dressed in bright red. They could appear and 
disappear suddenly, and no one could tell how or where.' 

Much more might easily be said about Welsh goblins, 
about Welsh fairies who live in caves, or about Welsh fairy 
women who come out of lakes and rivers, or who are the 


presiding spirits of sacred wells and fountains,^ but these 
will have some consideration later, in Section III. For the 
purposes of the present inquiry enough evidence has been 
offered to show the fundamental character of Brythonic 
fairy-folk as we have found them. And we can very appro- 
priately close this inquiry by allowing our Welsh-speaking 
witness from the Pentre Evan country, Pembrokeshire, to 
tell us one of the prettiest and most interesting fairy-tales 
in all Wales. The name of Taliessin appearing in it leads 
us to suspect that it may be the remnant of an ancient 
bardic tale which has been handed down orally for centuries. 
It will serve to illustrate the marked difference between the 
short conversational stories of the living Fairy-Faith and 
the longer, more polished ones of the traditional Fairy-Faith; 
and we shall see in it how a literary effect is gained at the 
expense of the real character of the fairies themselves, for 
it transforms them into mortals : — 

Einion and Olwen. — * My mother told the story as she used 
to sit by the fire in the twilight knitting stockings : — ** One 
day when it was cloudy and misty, a shepherd boy going 
to the mountains lost his way and walked about for hours. 
At last he came to a hollow place surrounded by rushes 
where he saw a number of round rings. He recognized the 
place as one he had often heard of as dangerous for shep- 
herds, because of the rings. He tried to get away from there, 
but he could not. Then an old, merry, blue-eyed man 
appeared. The boy, thinking to find his way home, followed 
the old man, and the old man said to him, * Do not speak 
a word till I tell you.' In a little while they came to a menhir 
(long stone). The old man tapped it three times, and then 
lifted it up. A narrow path with steps descending was 
revealed, and from it emerged a bluish- white light. * Follow 
me,* said the old man, * no harm will come to you.' The 
boy did so, and it was not long before he saw a fine, wooded, 
fertile country with a beautiful palace, and rivers and moun- 
tains. He reached the palace and was enchanted by the 

* See Sir John Rhys, Celtic Folk-Lore : Welsh and Manx (Oxford, 
1 901), passim. 



singing of birds. Music of all sorts was in the palace, but 
he saw no people. At meals dishes came and disappeared of 
their own accord. He could hear voices all about him, but 
saw no person except the old man — who said that now he 
could speak. When he tried to speak he found that he could 
not move his tongue. Soon an old lady with smiles came to 
him leading three beautiful maidens, and when the maidens 
saw the shepherd boy they smiled and spoke, but he could 
not reply. Then one of the girls kissed him ; and all at once 
he began to converse freely and most wittily. In the full 
enjoyment of the marvellous country he lived with the 
maidens in the palace a day and a year, not thinking it 
more than a day, for there was no reckoning of time in that 
land. When the day and the year were up, a longing to see 
his old acquaintances came on him ; and thanking the old 
man for his kindness, he asked if he could return home. The 
old man said to him, * Wait a little while ' ; and so he waited. 
The maiden who had kissed him was unwilling to have him 
go ; but when he promised her to return, she sent him off 
loaded with riches. 

' " At home not one of his people or old friends knew him. 
Everybody believed that he had been killed by another 
shepherd. And this shepherd had been accused of the 
murder and had fled to America. 

* " On the first day of the new moon the boy remembered 
his promise, and returned to the other country ; and there 
was great rejoicing in the beautiful palace when he arrived. 
Einion, for that was the boy's name, and Olwen, for that was 
the girl's name, now wanted to marry ; but they had to go 
about it quietly and half secretly, for the fair-folk dislike 
ceremony and noise. When the marriage was over, Einion 
wished to go back with Olwen to the upper world. So two 
snow-white ponies were given them, and they were allowed 
to depart. 

They reached the upper world safely ; and, being 
possessed of unlimited wealth, lived most handsomely on 
a great estate which came into their possession. A son was 
born to them, and he was called Taliessin. People soon 


began to ask for Olwen's pedigree, and as none was given 
it was taken for granted that she was one of the fair-folk, 

* Yes, indeed,' said Einion, * there is no doubt that she is 
one of the fair-folk, there is no doubt that she is one of the 
very fair-folk, for she has two sisters as pretty as she is, and 
if you saw them all together you would admit that the name 
is a suitable one.' And this is the origin of the term fair- 
folk (Tylwyth Teg)." ' 

From Wales we go to the nearest Brythonic country, 
Cornwall, to study the fairy-folk there. 


Introduction by Henry Jenner, Member of the Gorsedd 
of the Bards of Brittany ; Fellow and Local Secretary for 
Cornwall of the Society of Antiquaries ; author of A Hand- 
book of the Cornish Language, &c. 

In Cornwall the legends of giants, of saints, or of Arthur 
and his knights, the observances and superstitions connected 
with the prehistoric stone monuments, holy wells, mines, 
and the like, the stories of submerged or buried cities, and 
the fragments of what would seem to be pre-Christian faiths, 
have no doubt occasional points of contact with Cornish 
fairy legends, but they do not help to explain the fairies 
very much. Yet certain it is that not only in Cornwall and 
other Celtic lands, but throughout most of the world, a belief 
in fairies exists or has existed, and so widespread a belief 
must have a reason for it, though not necessarily a good one. 
That which with unconscious humour men generally call 

* education ' has in these days caused those lower classes, to 
whom the deposit of this faith was entrusted, to be ashamed 
of it, and to despise and endeavour to forget it. And so now 
in Cornwall, as elsewhere at that earlier outbreak of Philis- 
tinism, the Reformation, 

From haunted spring and grassy ring 

Troop goblin, elf and fairy. 
And the kelpie must flit from the black bog-pit. 

And the brownie must not tarry. 

M 2 


But, in spite of Protestantism, school-boards, and educa- 
tion committees, * pisky-pows ' are still placed on the ridge- 
tiles of West Cornish cottages, to propitiate the piskies and 
give them a dancing-place, lest they should turn the milk 
sour, and St. Just and Morvah folk are still ' pisky-led ' on 
the Gump (an On Gumpas, the Level Down, between Chun 
Castle and Carn Kenidjack), and more rarely St. Columb 
and Roche folk on Goss Moor. It will not do to say that it 
is only another form of * whisky-led '. That is an evidently 
modern explanation, invented since the substitution of 
strange Scottish and Irish drinks for the good * Nantes ' and 
wholesome * Plymouth ' of old time, and it does not fit in 
with the phenomena. It was only last winter, in a cottage 
not a hundred yards from where I am writing, that milk 
was set at night for piskies, who had been knocking on walls 
and generally making nuisances of themselves. Apparently 
the piskies only drank the * astral ' part of the milk (whatever 
that may be) and then the neighbouring cats drank what was 
left, and it disagreed with them. I cannot vouch for the 
truth of the part about the piskies and the ' astral ' milk — 
I give it as it was told to me by the occupant of the cottage, 
who was not unacquainted with * occult ' terminology — but 
I do know that the milk was consumed, and that the cats, 
one of which was my own, were with one accord unwell all 
over the place. But for the present purpose it does not 
matter whether these things really happened or not. The 
point is that people thought they happened. 

Robert Hunt, in his Popular Romances of the West of 
England, divided the fairies of Cornish folk-lore into five 
classes : (i) the Small People ; (2) the Spriggans ; (3) the 
Piskies ; (4) the Buccas, Bockles, or Knockers ; (5) the 
Brownies. This is an incorrect classification. ' The Pohel 
Vean or Small People, the Spriggans, and the Piskies are not 
really distinguishable from one another. Bucca, who pro- 
perly is but one, is a deity not a fairy, and it is said that at 
Newlyn, the great seat of his worship, offerings of fish are 
still left on the beach for him. His name is the Welsh pwca, 
which is probably * Puck \ though Shakespeare's Puck was 


just a pisky, and it may be connected with the general 
Slavonic word Bog, God ; so that if, as some say, buccaboo is 
really meant for Bucca-du, Black Bucca, this may be an 
equivalent of Czernobog, the Black God, who was the Ahriman 
of Slavonic dualism, and Bucca-widn (White Bucca), which 
is rarer, though the expression does come into a St. Levan 
story, may be the corresponding Bielobog. Bockle, which 
personally I have never heard used, suggests the Scottish 
bogle, and both may be diminutives of bucca, bog, bogie, or 
bug, the last in the sense in which one English version 
translates the timor nocturnus of Psalm xc. 5, not in that of 
cimex lectularius. But bockle and brownie are probably both 
foreign importations borrowed from books, though a * brownie' 
CO nomine has been reported from Sennen within the last 
twenty years. 

The Knockers or Knackers are mine-spirits, quite uncon- 
nected with Bucca or bogles. The story, as I have always 
heard it, is that they are the spirits of Jews who were sent 
by the Romans to work in the tin mines, some say for being 
concerned in the Crucifixion of our Lord, which sounds 
improbable. They are benevolent spirits, and warn miners 
of danger. 

But the only true Cornish fairy is the Pisky, of the race 
which is the Pobel Vean or Little People, and the Spriggan 
is only one of his aspects. The Pisky would seem to be the 
* Brownie ' of the Lowland Scot, the Duine Sith of the High- 
lander, and, if we may judge from an interesting note in 
Scott's The Pirate, the * Peght ' of the Orkneys. If Daoine 
Sith really means ' The Folk of the Mounds ' (barrows), 
not * The People of Peace ', it is possible that there is some- 
thing in the theory that Brownie, Duine Sith, and * Peght ', 
which is Pict, are only in their origin ways of expressing 
the little dark-complexioned aboriginal folk who were sup- 
posed to inhabit the barrows, cromlechs, and alle'es couvertes, 
and whose cunning, their only effective weapon against the 
mere strength of the Aryan invader, earned them a reputa- 
tion for magical powers. Now Pisky or Pisgy is really Pixy. 
Though as a patriotic Cornishman I ought not to admit it, 


I cannot deny, especially as it suits my argument better, 
that the Devon form is the correct one. But after all there 
has been always a strong Cornish element in Devon, even 
since the time when Athelstan drove the Britons out of 
Exeter and set the Tamar for their boundary, and I think 
the original word is really Cornish. The transposition of 
consonants, especially when s is one of them, is not uncommon 
in modern Cornish English. Hosged for hogshead, and haps 
for hasp are well-known instances. If we take the root of 
Pixy, Pix, and divide the double letter x into its component 
parts, we get Piks or Pics, and if we remember that a final 
s or <2: in Cornish almost always represents a ^ or t^ of Welsh 
and Breton (cf. tas for tad, nans for nant, bos for bod), we 
may not unreasonably, though without absolute certainty, 
conjecture that Pixy is Piety in a Cornish form.^ 

Without begging any question concerning the origin, 
ethnology, or homogeneity of those who are called * Picts * 
in history, from the times of Ammianus Marcellinus and 
Claudian until Kenneth MacAlpine united the Pictish king- 
dom with the Scottish, we can nevertheless accept the fact 
> that the name * Pict ' has been popularly applied to some 
pre-Celtic race or races, to whom certain ancient structures, 
such as * vitrified forts ' and * Picts* houses ' have been 
attributed. In Cornwall there are instances of prehistoric 
structures being called * Piskies' Halls ' (there is an alle'e 
couverte so called at Bosahan in Constantine) , and * Piskies' 
Crows ' (Crow or Craw, Breton Krao, is a shed or hovel ; 

* pegs* craw ' is still used for * pig-sty ') ; and there are three 
genuine examples of what would in Scotland be called 

* Picts* Houses * just outside St. Ives in the direction of 
Zennor, though only modern antiquaries have applied that 
name to them. In the district in which they are, the fringe 
of coast from St. Ives round by Zennor, Morvah, Pendeen, 
and St. Just nearly to Sennen, are found to this day a strange 

* The New English Dictionary, s.v. Pixy, gives rather vaguely a Swedish 
dialect word, pysg, a small fairy. It also mentions pix as a Devon impreca- ■» 
tion, ' a pix take him.' I suspect the last is only an umlaut form of a 
common Shakespearean imprecation. If not, it is interesting, and reminds 
one of the fate of Margery Dawe, ' Piskies came and carr'd her away.' 


and separate people of Mongol type, like the Bigaudens of 
Pont I'Abbe and Penmarc'h in the Breton Cornouailles, one 
of those * fragments of forgotten peoples ' of the ' sunset 
bound of Lyonesse ' of whom Tennyson tells. They are 
a little * stuggy ' dark folk, and until comparatively modern 
times were recognized as different from their Celtic neigh- 
bours, and were commonly believed to be largely wizards 
and witches. One of Mr. Wentz's informants seems to 
attribute to Zennor a particularly virulent brand of pisky, 
and Zennor is the most primitive part of that district. 
Possibly the more completely unmixed ancestors of this race 
were * more so ' than the present representatives ; but, be 
this as it may, if Pixy is really Piety, it would seem that, 
like the inhabitants of the extreme north of the British Isles, 
the south-western Britons eventually applied the fairly 
general popular name of the mysterious, half dreaded, half 
despised aboriginal to a race of preternatural beings in 
whose existence they believed, and, with the name, trans- 
ferred some of the qualities, attributes, and legends, thus 
producing a mixed mental conception, now known as ' pisky ' 
or * pixy '. 

There seems to have been always and everywhere (or 
nearly so) a belief in a race, neither divine nor human, but 
very like to human beings, who existed on a * plane ' different 
from that of humans, though occupying the same space. 
This has been called the * astral ' or the * fourth-dimensional ' 
plane. Why * astral ' ? why * fourth-dimensional ' ? why 
* plane ' ? are questions the answers to which do not matter, 
and I do not attempt to defend the terms, but you must call 
it something. This is the belief to which Scott refers in the 
introduction to The Monastery, as the * beautiful but almost 
forgotten theory of astral spirits or creatures of the elements, 
surpassing human beings in knowledge and power, but 
inferior to them as being subject, after a certain space of 
years, to a death which is to them annihilation '. The sub- 
divisions and elaborations of the subject by Paracelsus, the 
RosiCrucians, and the modern theosophists are no doubt 
amplifications of that popular belief, which, though rather 


undefined, resembles the theory of these mystics in its mairu 
outhnes, and was probably what suggested it to them. 

These beings are held to be normally imperceptible to 
human senses, but conditions may arise in which the ' astral ' 
plane ' of the elementals and that part of the ' physical 
plane ' in which, if one may so express it, some human 
being happens to be, may be in such a relation to one another 
that these and other spirits may be seen and heard. Some 
such condition is perhaps described in the story of Balaam 
the soothsayer, in that incident when * the Lord opened the 
eyes of the young man and he saw, and behold, the mountain 
was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha ', 
and possibly also in the mysterious ' sound of a going in 
the tops of the mulberry trees ' which David heard ; but no 
doubt in these cases it was angels and not elementals. It 
may also be allowable to suggest, without irreverence, that 
the Gospel stories of the Transfiguration and Ascension are 
connected with the same idea, though the latter is expressed 
in the form of the geocentric theory of the universe. 

The Cornish pisky stories are largely made up of instances 
of contact between the two * planes ', sometimes accidental, 
sometimes deliberately induced by incantations or magic 
eye-salve, yet with these stories are often mingled incidents 
that are not preternatural at all. How, when, and why this 
belief arose, I do not pretend even to conjecture ; but there 
it is, and though of course the holders of it do not talk about 
' planes ', that is very much the notion which they appear 
to have. 

I do not think that the piskies were ever definitely held 
to be the spirits of the dead, and while a certain confusion 
has arisen, as some of Mr. Wentz's informants show, I think 
it belongs to the confused eschatology of modern Protestants. 
To a pre-Reformation Cornishman, or indeed to any other 
Catholic, the idea was unthinkable. ' Justorum animae in 
manu Dei sunt, et non tanget illos tormentum malitiae : 
visi sunt oculis insipientium mori : illi autem sunt in pace,' 
and the transmigration of the souls of the faithful departed 
into another order of beings, not disembodied because never 


embodied, was to them impossible. Such a notion is on 
a par with the quaint but very usual hope of the modern 
' Evangelical ' Christian, so beautifully expressed in one of 
Hans Andersen's stories, that his departed friends are pro- 
moted to be * angels '. There may be, perhaps, an idea, as 
there certainly is in the Breton Death-Faith, that the spirits 
of the faithful dead are all round us, and are not rapt away 
into a distant Paradise or Purgatory. This may be of pre- 
Christian origin, but does not contradict any article of the 
Christian faith. The warnings, apparitions, and hauntings, 
the ' calling of the dead ' at sea, and other details of Cornish 
Death-Legends, seem to point to a conception of a * plane * 
of the dead, similar to but not necessarily identical with that 
of the elementals. Under some quite undefined conditions 
contact may occur with the ' physical plane ', whence the 
alleged incidents ; but this Cornish Death-Faith, though 
sometimes, as commonly in Brittany, presenting similar 
phenomena, has in itself nothing to do with piskies, and as 
for the unfaithful departed, their destination was also well 
understood, and it was not Fairyland. There are possible 
connecting links in the not very common idea that piskies 
are the souls of unbaptized children, and in the more 
common notion that the Pobel Vean are, not the disembodied 
spirits, but the living souls and bodies of the old Pagans, 
who, refusing Christianity, are miraculously preserved alive, 
but are condemned to decrease in size until they vanish 
altogether. Some authorities hold that it is the race and 
not the individual which dwindles from generation to 

This last idea, as well as the name * pixy ', gives some 
probability to the conclusion that, as applied to Cornwall, 
Mr. MacRitchie's theory represents a part of the truth, and 
that on to an already existing belief in elementals have been 
grafted exaggerated traditions of a dark pre-Celtic people. 
These were not necessarily pygmies, but smaller than Celts, 
and may have survived for a long time in forests and hill 
countries, sometimes friendly to the taller race, whence come 
the stories of piskies working for farmers, sometimes hostile, 


which may account for the legends of changelings and other 
mischievous tricks. This is how it appears to one who knows 
his Cornwall in all its aspects fairly well, but does not profess 
to be an expert in folk-lore. 

BospowES, Hayle, Cornwall, 
July 1 910. 

Our investigation of the Fairy-Faith in Cornwall covers 
the region between Falmouth and the Land's End, which is 
now the most Celtic ; and the Tintagel country on the north 
coast. It is generally believed that ancient Cornish legends, 
like the Cornish language, are things of the past only, but 
I am now no longer of that opinion. Undoubtedly Cornwall 
is the most anglicized of all Celtic lands we are studying, 
and its folk-lore is therefore far from being as virile as the 
Irish folk-lore ; nevertheless, through its people, racially 
mixed though they are, there still flows the blood and the 
inspiration of a prehistoric native ancestry, and among 
the oldest Cornish men and women of many an isolated 
village, or farm, there yet remains some belief in fairies and 
pixies. Moreover, throughout all of Old Cornwall there is 
a very living faith in the Legend of the Dead ; and that this 
Cornish Legend of the Dead, with its peculiar Brythonic 
character, should be parallel as it is to the Breton Legend 
of the Dead, has heretofore, so far as I am aware, not been 
pointed out. I am giving, however, only a very few of the 
Cornish death-legends collected, because in essence most of 
them are alike. 

A Cornish Historian's Testimony 

I was privileged to make my first call in rural Cornwall 
at the pretty country home of Miss Susan E. Gay, of Crill, 
about three miles from Falmouth ; and Miss Gay, who has 
written a well-known history of Falmouth [Old Falmouth, 
London, 1903), very willingly accorded me an interview on 
the subject of my inquiry, and finally dictated for my use 
the following matter : — 


Pixies as 'Astral Plane * Beings. — ' The pixies and fairies 
are little beings in the human form existing on the ' astral 
plane ', who may be in the process of evolution ; and, as 
such, I believe people have seen them. The * astral plane ' 
is not known to us now because our psychic faculty of per- 
ception has faded out by non-use, and this condition has 
been brought about by an almost exclusive development of 
the physical brain ; but it is likely that the psychic faculty 
will develop again in its turn.' 

Psychical Interpretation of Folk-Lore. — * It is my point of 
view that there is a basis of truth in the folk-lore. With its 
remnants of occult learning, magic, charms, and the like, 
folk-lore seems to be the remains of forgotten psychical facts, 
rather than history, as it is often called.' 

Peasant Evidence from the Crill Country 

Miss Gay kindly gave me the names of certain peasants 
in the Crill region, and from one of them, Mrs. Harriett 
Christopher, I gleaned the following material : — 

A Pisky Changeling. — * A woman who lived near Breage 
Church had a fine girl baby, and she thought the piskies 
came and took it and put a withered child in its place. The 
withered child lived to be twenty years old, and was no 
larger when it died than when the piskies brought it. It was 
fretful and peevish and frightfully shrivelled. The parents 
believed that the piskies often used to come and look over 
a certain wall by the house to see the child. And I heard 
my grandmother say that the family once put the child 
out of doors at night to see if the piskies would take it 
back again.' 

Nature of Piskies. — * The piskies are said to be very small. 
You could never see them by day. I used to hear my grand- 
mother, who has been dead fifty years, say that the piskies 
used to hold a fair in the fields near Breage, and that people 
saw them there dancing. I also remember her saying that 
it was customary to set out food for the piskies at night. 
My grandmother's great belief was in piskies and in spirits ; 
and she considered piskies spirits. She used to tell so many 


stories about spirits [of the dead] coming back and such 
things that I would be afraid to go to bed/ 

Evidence from Constantine 

Our witnesses from the ancient and picturesque village of 
Constantine are John Wilmet, seventy-eight years old, and 
his good wife, two most excellent and well-preserved types 
of the passing generation of true Cornish stock. John began 
by teUing me the following tale about an alle'e couverte — 
a tale which in one version or another is apt to be told of 
most Cornish megaliths : — 

A Pisky-House. — ' William Murphy, who married my 
sister, once went to the pisky-house at Bosahan with a sur- 
veyor, and the two of them heard such unearthly noises in 
it that they came running home in great excitement, saying 
they had heard the piskies.* 

The Pisky Thrasher. — ' On a farm near here, a pisky used 
to come at night to thrash the farmer's corn. The farmer 
in payment once put down a new suit for him. When the 
pisky came and saw it, he put it on, and said : — 

Pisky fine and pisky gay, 
Pisky now will fly away. 

And they say he never returned.* 

Nature of Piskies. — ' I always understood the piskies to be 
little people. A great deal was said about ghosts in this 
place. Whether or not piskies are the same as ghosts I cannot 
tell, but I fancy the old folks thought they were.* 

Exorcism. — * A farmer who lived two miles from here, 
near the Gweek River, called Parson Jago to his house to 
have him quiet the ghosts or spirits regularly haunting it, 
for Parson Jago could always put such things to rest. The 
clergyman went to the farmer's house, and with his whip 
formed a circle on the floor and then commanded the spirit, 
which made its appearance on the table, to come down into 
the circle. While on the table the spirit had been visible to 
all the family, but as soon as it got into the ring it dis- 
appeared ; and the house was never haunted afterwards.* 


At St. Michael's Mount, Marazion 

Our next place for an investigation of the surviving 
Cornish Fairy-Faith is Marazion, the very ancient British 
town opposite the isle called St. Michael's Mount. (From 
Const ant ine I walked through the country to this point, 
talking with as many old people as possible, but none of 
them knew very much about ancient Cornish beliefs.) It 
is believed, though the matter is very doubtful, that Mara- 
zion was the chief mart for the tin trade of Celtic Britain, 
and that the Mount — sacred to the Sun and to the Pagan 
Mysteries long before Caesar crossed the Channel from Gaul — 
sheltered the brilliantly-coloured sailing-ships of the Phoeni- 
cians.^ In such a romantic town, where Oriental merchants 
and Celtic pilgrims probably once mingled together, one 
might expect some survival of olden beliefs and customs. 

Piskies. — To Mr. Thomas G. Jago, of Marazion, with 
a memory extending backwards more than seventy years, 
he being eighty years old, I am indebted for this statement 
about the pisky creed in that locality : — * I imagine that one 
hundred and fifty years ago the belief in piskies and spirits 
was general. In my boyhood days, piskies were often called 
" the mites " (little people) : they were regarded as little 
spirits. The word piskies is the old Cornish brogue for 
pixies. In certain grass fields, mushrooms growing in a 
circle might be seen of a morning, and the old folks point- 
ing to the mushrooms would say to the children, " Oh, the 
piskies have been dancing there last night." * 

Two more of the oldest natives of Marazion, among others 
with whom I talked, are William Rowe, eighty-two years 
old, and his married sister seventy-eight years old. About 
the piskies Mr. Rowe said this : — * People would go out at 
night and lose their way and then declare that they had 
been pisky-led. I think they meant by this that they fell 
under some spiritual influence — that some spirit led them 
astray. The piskies were said to be small, and they were 

^ ' Some say that the Phoenicians never came to Cornwall at all, and that 
their Ictis was Vectis (the Isle of Wight) or even Thanet.' — Henry Jenner. 


thought of as spirits.' ^ Mr. Rowe's sister added : — ' If we 
as children did anything wrong, the old folks would say 
to us, ** The piskies will carry you away if you do that 
again." ' 

Witch-Doctors . — I heard the following witch-story from 
a lawyer, a native of the district, who lives in the country 
just beyond Marazion : — * Jimmy Thomas, of Wendron 
parish, who died within the last twenty-five years, was 
the last witch-doctor I know about in West Cornwall. He 
was supposed to have great power over evil spirits. His 
immediate predecessor was a woman, called the " Witch of 
Wendron ", and she did a big business. My father once 
visited her in company with a friend whose father had lost 
some horses. This was about seventy to eighty years ago. 
The witch when consulted on this occasion turned her back 
to my father's companion, and began talking to herself in 
Cornish. Then she gave him some herbs. His father used 
the herbs, and no more horses died : the herbs were sup- 
posed to have driven all evil spirits out of the stable.' 

In Penzance : An Architect's Testimony 

Penzance from earliest times has undoubtedly been, as it 
is now, the capital of the Land's End district, the Sacred 
Land of Britain. And in Penzance I had the good fortune 
to meet those among its leading citizens who still cherish 
and keep alive the poetry and the mystic lore of Old Corn- 
wall ; and to no one of them am I more indebted than to 
Mr. Henry Maddern, F.LA.S. Mr. Maddern tells me that 
he was initiated into the mysteries of the Cornish folk-lore 
of this region when a boy in Newlyn, where he was born, by 
his old nurse Betty Grancan, a native Zennor woman, of 
stock probably the most primitive and pure in the British 
Islands. At his home in Penzance, Mr. Maddern dictated 
to me the very valuable evidence which follows : — 

Two Kinds of Pixies. — * In this region there are two kinds 
of pixies, one purely a land-dwelling pixy and the other 
a pixy which dwells on the sea-strand between high and low 

* 'This is, I think, the usual Cornish belief.' — Henry Jenner. 


water mark.^ The land-dwelling pixy was usually thought 
to be full of mischievous fun, but it did no harm. There was 
a very prevalent belief, when I was a boy, that this sea- 
strand pixy, called Bucca,^ had to be propitiated by a cast 
(three) of fish, to ensure the fishermen having a good shot 
(catch) of fish. The land pixy was supposed to be able to 
render its devotees invisible, if they only anointed their eyes 
with a certain green salve made of secret herbs gathered 
from Kerris-moor.^ In the invisible condition thus induced, 
people were able to join the pixy revels, during which, 
according to the old tradition, time slipped away very, very 
rapidly, though people returned from the pixies no older 
than when they went with them.* 

The Nurse and the Ointment. — * I used to hear about a 
Zennor girl who came to Newlyn as nurse to the child of 
a gentleman living at Zimmerman-Cot. The gentleman 
warned her never to touch a box of ointment which he 
guarded in a special room, nor even to enter that room ; but 
one day in his absence she entered the room and took some 
of the ointment. Suspecting the qualities of the ointment, 
she put it on her eyes with the wish that she might see where 
her master was. She immediately found herself in the 
higher part of the orchard amongst the pixies, where they 
were having much junketing (festivity and dancing) ; and 
there saw the gentleman whose child she had nursed. For 
a time she managed to evade him, but before the junketing 
was at an end he discovered her and requested her to go 

* ' About Forth Curnow and the Logan Rock there are little spots of 
earth in the face of the granite cliffs where sea-daisies (thrift) and other 
wild flowers grow. These are referred to the sea pisky, and are known as 
''piskies' gardens." ' — Henry Jenner. 

* I was told by another Cornishman that, in a spirit of municipal rivalry 
and fun, the Penzance people like to taunt the people of Newlyn (now 
almost a suburb of Penzance) by calling them Buccas, and that the 
Newlyn townsmen very much resent being so designated. Thus what no 
doubt was originally an ancient cult to some local sea-divinity called 
Bucca, has survived as folk-humour. (See Mr. Jenner's Introduction, 
p. 164.) 

* ' Another version, which is more usual, is that the pisky anointed the 
person's eyes and so rendered itself visible.' — Henry Jenner. 


home ; and then, to her intense astonishment, she learned 
that she had been away twenty years, though she was 
unchanged. The gentleman scolded her for having touched 
the ointment, paid her wages in full, and sent her back to 
her people. She always had the one regret, that she had 
not gone into the forbidden room at first.' 

The Tolcarne Troll. — ' The fairy of the Newlyn Tolcarne ^ 
was in some ways like the Puck of the English Midlands. 
But this fairy, or troll, was supposed to date back to the 
time of the Phoenicians. He was described as a little old 
pleasant-faced man dressed in a tight-fitting leathern jerkin, 
with a hood on his head, who lived invisible in the rock. 
Whenever he chose to do so he could make himself visible. 
When I was a boy it was said that he spent his time voyaging 
from here to Tyre on the galleys which carried the tin ; and, 
also, that he assisted in the building of Solomon's Temple. 
Sometimes he was called " the Wandering One ", or " Odin 
the Wanderer ". My old nurse, Betty Grancan, used to say 
that you could call up the troll at the Tolcarne if while 
there you held in your hand three dried leaves, one of the 
ash, one of the oak, and one of the thorn, and pronounced 
an incantation or charm. Betty would never tell me the 
words of the charm, because she said I was too much of 
a sceptic. The words of such a Cornish charm had to pass 
from one believer to another, through a woman to a man, 
and from a man to a woman, and thus alternately.' ^ 

Nature of Pixies. — ' Pixies were often supposed to be the 
souls of the prehistoric dwellers of this country. As such, 
pixies were supposed to be getting smaller and smaller, until 
finally they are to vanish entirely. The country pixies 
inhabiting the highlands from above Newlyn on to St. Just 
were considered a wicked sort. Their great ambition was to 

* This is a natural outcropping of greenstone on a commanding hill just 
above the vicarage in Newlyn, and concerning it many weird legends 
survive. In pre-Christian times it was probably one of the Cornish sacred 
spots for the celebration of ancient rites — probably in honour of the Sun — 
and for divination. 

* For more about the Tolcarne Troll see chapter on Celtic Re-birth 
p. 391. 


change their own offspring for human children ; and the 
true child could only be got back by laying a four-leaf clover 
on the changeling. A winickey child — one which was weak, 
frail, and peevish — was of the nature of a changeling. Miner 
pixies, called " knockers ", would accept a portion of a 
miner's croust (lunch) on good faith, and by knocking lead 
him to a rich mother-lode, or warn him by knocking if there 
was danger ahead or a cavern full of water ; but if the 
miner begrudged them the croust, he would be left to his 
own resources to find the lode, and, moreover, the " knockers" 
would do all they could to lead him away from a good lode. 
These mine pixies, too, were supposed to be spirits, some- 
times spirits of the miners of ancient times.' ^ 

Fairies and Pixies. — * In general appearance the fairies 
were much the same as pixies. They were small men and 
women, much smaller than dwarfs. The men were swarthy 
in complexion, and the women had a clear complexion of 
a peach-like bloom. None ever appeared to be more than 
five-and-twenty to thirty years old. I have heard my nurse 
say that she could see scores of them whenever she picked 
a four-leaf clover and put it in the wisp of straw which she 
carried on her head as a cushion for the bucket of milk. Her 
theory was that the richness of the milk was what attracted 
them. Pixies, like fairies, very much enjoyed milk, and people 
of miserly nature used to put salt around a cow to keep the 
pixies away ; and then the pixies would lead such mean 
people astray the very first opportunity that came. Accord- 
ing to some country-people, the pixies have been seen in the 
day-time, but usually they are only seen at night.' 

A Cornish Editor's Opinion 

Mr. Herbert Thomas, editor of four Cornish papers, The 
Cornishman, The Cornish Telegraph, Post, and Evening 

^ Mr. John B. Cornish, solicitor, of Penzance, told me that when he 
once suggested to an old miner who fully believed in the ' knockers ', that 
the noises they were supposed to make were due to material causes, the 
old miner became quite annoyed, and said, ' Well, I guess I have ears to 



Times, and a true Celt himself, has been deeply interested 
in the folk-lore of Cornwall, and has made excellent use of 
it in his poetry and other literary productions ; so that his 
personal opinions, which follow, as to the probable origin of 
the fctiry-belief, are for our study a very important con- 
tribution : — 

Animistic Origin of Belief in 'Pixies. — * I should say that 
the modern belief in pixies, or in fairies, arose from a very 
ancient Celtic or pre-Celtic belief in spirits. Just as among 
some savage tribes there is belief in gods and totems, here 
there was belief in little spirits good and bad, who were able 
to help or to hinder man. Belief in the supernatural, in my 
opinion, is the root of it all.* 

A Cornish Folk-lorist's Testimony 

In Penzance I had the privilege of also meeting Miss M. A. 
Courtney, the well-known folk-lorist, who quite agrees with 
me in believing that there is in Cornwall a widespread 
Legend of the Dead ; and she cited a few special instances 
in illustration, as follows : — 

Cornish Legend of the Dead. — * Here amongst the fisher- 
men and sailors there is a belief that the dead in the sea will 
be heard calling if a drowning is about to occur. I know of 
a woman who went to a clergyman to have him exorcize her 
of the spirit of her dead sister, which she said appeared in 
the form of a bee. And I have heard of miners believing 
that white moths are spirits.' ^ 

Evidence from Newlyn 

In Newlyn, Mrs. Jane Tregurtha gave the following 
important testimony : — 

The ' Little Folk '. — * The old people thoroughly believed 
in the little folk, and that they gambolled all over the moors 
on moonlight nights. Some pixies would rain down bless- 
ings and others curses ; and to remove the curses people 

* For the Cornish folk-lore already published by Miss M. A. Courtney, 
the reader is referred to her work, Cornish Feasts and Folk-Lore (Penzance, 


would go to the wells blessed by the saints. Whenever any- 
thing went wrong in the kitchen at night the pixies were 
blamed. After the 31st of October [or after Halloween] the 
blackberries are not fit to eat, for the pixies have then been 
over them ' (cf. the parallel Irish belief, p. 38). 

Fairy Guardian of the Men-an-Tol} — * At the Men-an-Tol 
there is supposed to be a guardian fairy or pixy who can 
make miraculous cures. And my mother knew of an actual 
case in which a changeling was put through the stone in 
order to get the real child back. It seems that evil pixies 
changed children, and that the pixy at the Men-an-Tol being 
good, could, in opposition, undo their work.' 

Exorcism. — ' A spirit was put to rest on the Green here in 
Newlyn. The parson prayed and fasted, and then com- 
manded the spirit to teeme (dip dry) the sea with a limpet 
shell containing no bottom ; and the spirit is supposed to 
be still busy at this task.' 

Piskies as Apparitions. — When I talked with her in her 
neat cottage at Newlyn, Miss Mary Ann Chirgwin (who was 
born on St. Michael's Mount in 1825) told me this : — * The 
old people used to say the piskies were apparitions of the 
dead come back in the form of little people, but I can't 
remember anything more than this about them.' 

An Artist's Testimony 

One of the members of the Newlyn Art School was able 
to offer a few of his own impressions concerning the pixies 
of Devonshire, where he has frequently made sketches of 
pixies from descriptions given to him by peasants : — 

Devonshire Pixies. — * Throughout all the west of Devon- 
shire, anywhere near the moorlands, the country people are 

* A curious holed stone standing between two low menhirs on the moors 
beyond the Lanyon Dolmen, near Madron ; but in Borlase's time (cf. his 
Antiquities of Cornwall, ed. 1769, p. 177) the three stones were not as now 
in a direct line. The Men-an-Tol has aroused much speculation among 
archaeologists as to its probable use or meaning. No doubt it was astro- 
nomical and religious in its significance ; and it may have been a calendar 
stone with which ancient priests took sun observations (cf. Sir Norman 
Lockyer, Stonehenge and Other Stone Monuments) ; or it may have been 
otherwise related to a sun cult, or to some pagan initiatory rites. 

N 2 


much given to belief in pixies and ghosts. I think they 
expect to see them about the twiHght hour ; though I have 
not found anybody who has actually seen a pixy — the belief 
now is largely based on hearsay.' 

Testimony from the Historian of Mousehole 

To Mr. Richard Harry, the historian of Mousehole, I am 
indebted for these remarks about the nature and present 
state of the belief in pixies as he observes it in that region : — 

The Pixy Belief. — ' The piskies, thought of as little people 
who appear on moonlight nights, are still somewhat believed 
in here. If interfered with too much they are said to exhibit 
almost fiendish powers. In a certain sense they are con- 
sidered spiritual, but in another sense they are much materia- 
lized in the conceptions of the people. Generally speaking, 
the belief in them has almost died out within the last fifty 

A Seaman's Testimony 

' Uncle Billy Pender,* as our present witness is familiarly 
called, is one of the oldest natives of Mousehole, being 
eighty-five years old ; and most of his life has been passed 
on the ocean, as a fisherman, seaman, and pilot. After 
having told me the usual things about piskies, fairies, spirits, 
ghosts, and the devil. Uncle Billy Pender was very soon 
talking about the dead : — 

Cornish Legend of the Dead. — * I was up in bed, and I sup- 
pose asleep, and I dreamt that the boy James came to my 
bedside and woke me up by saying, " How many lights 
does Death put up ? " And in the dream there appeared 
such light as I never saw in my life ; and when I woke up 
another light like it was in the room. Within three months 
afterwards we buried two grand-daughters out of this house. 
This was four years ago.' When this strange tale was 
finished. Uncle Billy Pender's daughter, who had been 
listening, added : — * For three mornings, one after another, 
there was a robin at our cellar door before the deaths, and 
my husband said he didn't like that.' 


Then Uncle Billy told this weird Breton-like tale : — 
' " Granny " told about a boat named Blucher, going from 
Newlyn to Bristol with six thousand mackerel, which put in 
at Arbor Cove, close to Padstow, on account of bad weather. 
The boat dragged her anchors and was lost. " Granny " 
afterwards declared that he saw the crew going up over 
the Newlyn Slip ; and the whole of Newlyn and Mousehole 
believed him/ 

Testimony by Two Land's End Farmers 

In the Sennen country, within a mile of the end of Britain, 
I talked with two farmers who knew something about piskies. 
The first one, Charles Hutchen, of Trevescan, told me this 
legend : — 

A St. Just Pisky. — ' Near St. Just, on Christmas Day, 
a pisky carried away in his cloak a boy, but the boy got 
home. Then the pisky took him a second time, and again 
the boy got home. Each time the boy was away for only an 
hour ' (probably in a dream or trance state) . 

Seeing the Pisky-Dance. — Frank Ellis, seventy-eight years 
old, of the same village of Trevescan, then gave the following 
evidence : — * Up on Sea- View Green there are two rings 
where the piskies used to dance and play music on a moon- 
light night. I've heard that they would come there from 
the moors. Little people they are called. If you keep quiet 
when they are dancing you'll see them, but if you make 
any noise they'll disappear.' Frank Ellis's wife, who is 
a very aged woman, was in the house listening to the con- 
versation, and added at this point : — * My grandmother, 
Nancy Maddem, was down on Sea- View Green by moonlight 
and saw the piskies dancing, and passed near them. She 
said they were like little children, and had red cloaks.' 

Testimony from a Sennen Cove Fisherman 

John Gilbert Guy, seventy-eight years old, a retired 
fisherman of Sennen Cove, offers very valuable testimony, 
as follows : — 

* Small People '. — * Many say they have seen the small 


people here by the hundreds. In Ireland they call the 
small people the fairies. My mother believes there were such 
things, and so did the old folks in these parts. My grand- 
mother used to put down a good furze fire for them on stormy 
nights, because, as she said, " They are a sort of people 
wandering about the world with no home or habitation, 
and ought to be given a little comfort." The most fear of 
them was that they might come at night and change a baby 
for one that was no good. My mother said that Joan 
Nicholas believed the fairies had changed her baby, because 
it was very small and cross-tempered. Up on the hill you'll 
see a round ring with grass greener than anywhere else, and 
that is where the small people used to dance.' 

Danger of Seeing the ' Little People \ — ' I heard that a 
woman set out water to wash her baby in, and that before 
she had used the water the small people came and washed 
their babies in it. She didn't know about this, and so in 
washing her baby got some of the water in her eyes, and then 
all at once she could see crowds of little people about her. 
One of them came to her and asked if she was able to see 
their crowd, and when she said " Yes/' the little people 
wanted to take her eyes out, and she had to clear away from 
them as fast as she could.' 

Testimony from a Cornish Miner 

William Shepherd, a retired miner of Pendeen, near 
St. Just, where he has passed all his life, offers us from 
his own experiences under the earth the evidence which 
follows : — 

Mine Piskies. — * There are mine-piskies which are not the 
" knockers ". I've heard old men in the mines say that 
they have seen them, and they call them the small people. 
It appears that they don't like company, for they are always 
seen singly. The " knockers " are spirits, too, as one might 
say. They are said to bring bad luck, while the small people 
may bring good luck,' 


Testimony from King Arthur's Country 

Leaving the Land's End district and South Cornwall, we 
now pass northward to King Arthur's country. Our chief 
researches there are to be made outside the beaten track of 
tourists as far as possible, in the country between Camelford 
and Tintagel. At Delabole, the centre of this district, we 
find our first witness, Henry Spragg, a retired slate-quarry- 
man, seventy years old. Mr, Spragg has had excellent 
opportunities of hearing any folk-lore that might have been 
living during his lifetime ; and what he offers first is about 
King Arthur : — 

King Arthur. — ' We always thought of King Arthur as 
a great warrior. And many a time I've heard old people 
say that he used to appear in this country in the form of 
a nath.' ^ This was all that could be told of King Arthur ; 
and the conversation finally was directed toward piskies, with 
the following results : — 

Piskies. — * A man named Bottrell, who lived near St. 
Teath, was pisky-led at West Down, and when he turned 
his pockets inside out he heard the piskies going away 
laughing.2 Often my grandmother used to say when I got 
home after dark, " You had better mind, or the piskies will 
carry you away." And I can remember hearing the old 
people say that the piskies are the spirits of dead-born 
children.' From pixies the conversation drifted to the 
spirit-hounds * often heard at night near certain haunted 
downs in St. Teath parish', and then, finally, to ordinary 
Cornish legends about the dead. 

Our next witnesses from Delabole are John Male, eighty- 

* I asked what a nath is, and Mr. Spragg explained : — * A nath is a bird 
with a beak like that of a parrot, and with black and grey feathers. The 
naths live on sea-islands in holes like rabbits, and before they start to 
fly they first run.' The nath, as Mr. Henry Jenner informs me, is the same 
as the puffin {Fratercula arctica), called also in Cornwall a ' sea parrot '. 

* Sometimes it is necessary to turn your coat inside out. A Zennor man 
said that to do the same thing with your socks or stockings is as good. 
In Ireland this strange psychological state of going astray comes from 
walking over a fairy domain, over a confusing-sod, or getting into a fairy 


two years old, one of the very oldest men in King Arthur's 
country, and his wife ; and all of Mr. Male's ancestors as 
far back as he can trace them have lived in the same parish. 
Piskies in General. — Mr. Male remarked : — * I have heard 
a good deal about the piskies, but I can't remember any of 
the old women's tales. I have heard, too, of people saying 
that they had seen the piskies. It was thought that when 
the piskies have misled you they show themselves jumping 
about in front of you ; they are a race of little people who 
live out in the fields.' Mrs. Male had now joined us at the 
open fire, and added : — * Piskies always come at night, and 
in marshy ground there are round places called pisky beds 
where they play. When I was little, my mother and grand- 
mother would be sitting round the fire of an evening telling 
fireside stories, and I can remember hearing about a pisky 
of this part who stole a new coat, and how the family heard 
him talking to himself about it, and then finally say : — 

Pisky fine and pisky gay, 
Pisky 's got a bright new coat, 
Pisky now will run away. 

And I can just remember one bit of another story : A pisky 
looked into a house and said : — 

All alone, fair maid ? 

No, here am I with a dog and cat, 

And apples to eat and nuts to crack.' 

Tintagel Folk-Beliefs. — A retired rural policeman of the 
Tintagel country, where he was born and reared, and now 
keeper of the Passmore Edwards Art Gallery at Newlyn, 
offered this testimony from Tintagel : — * In Tintagel I used 
to sit round the fire at night and hear old women tell so 
much about piskies and ghosts that I was then afraid to go 
out of doors after darkness had fallen. They religiously 
believed in such things, and when I expressed my doubts 
I was driven away as a rude boy. They thought if you went 
to a certain place at a certain hour of the night that you 
could there see the piskies as little spirits. It was held that 
the piskies could lead you astray and play tricks on you. 


but that they never did you any serious injury.* Of the 
Arthurian folk-legend at Tintagel he said : — * The spirit of 
King Arthur is supposed to be in the Cornish chough — 
a beautiful black bird with red legs and red beak/ 

We now leave Great Britain and cross the English Channel 
to Little Britain, the third of the Brythonic countries. 


Introduction by Anatole Le Braz, Professor of French 
Literature, University of Rennes, Brittany ; author of 
La Legende de la Mort, Au Pays des Pardons, &c. 

MoN CHER Monsieur Wentz, 

II me souvient que, lors de votre soutenance de these 
devant la Faculte des Lettres de TUniversite de Rennes, un 
de mes collegues, mon ami, le professeur Dottin, vous 
demanda : 

* Vous croyez, dites-vous, a Texistence des fees ? En avez- 
vous vu ? ' 

Vous repondites, avec autant de phlegme que de sin- 
cerite : 

* Non. J*ai tout fait pour en voir, et je n'en ai jamais vu. 
Mais il y a beaucoup de choses que vous n'avez pas vues, 
monsieur le professeur, et dont vous ne songeriez cependant 
pas a nier I'existence. Ainsi fais-je a I'egard des fees/ 

Je suis comme vous, mon cher monsieur Wentz : je n'ai 

My dear Mr. Wentz, 

I recollect that, at the time of your examination on your thesis before 
the Faculty of Letters of the University of Rennes, one of my colleagues, 
my friend Professor Dottin, put to you this question : — 

' You believe, you assert, in the existence of fairies ? Have you seen 
any ? ' 

You answered, with equal coolness and candour : 

' No. I have made every efifort to do so, and I have never seen any. 
But there are many things which you, sir, have not seen, and of which, 
nevertheless, you would not think of denying the existence. That is my 
attitude toward fairies.' 

I am like you, my deair Mr. Wentz : I have never seen fairies. It is true 


jamais vu de fees. J'ai bien une amie tres ch^re que nous 
avons baptisee de ce nom, mais, malgre tous ses beaux dons 
magiques, elle n'est qu'une humble mortelle. En revanche, 
j'ai vecu, tout enfant, parmi des personnes qui avaient avec 
les fees veritables un commerce quasi journaher. 

C'etait dans une petite bourgade de Basse-Bretagne, 
peuplee de paysans a moitie marins, et de marins a moitie 
paysans. II y avait, non loin du village, une ancienne 
gentilhommiere que ses proprietaires avaient depuis long- 
temps abandonnee pour on ne savait au juste quel motif. 
On continuait de I'appeler le * chateau ' de Lanascol, quoi- 
qu'elle ne fut plus guere qu'une ruine. II est vrai que les 
avenues par lesquelles on y accedait avaient conserve leur 
aspect seigneurial, avec leurs quadruples rangees de vieux 
h^tres dont les vastes frondaisons se miraient dans de 
magnifiques etangs. Les gens d'alentour se risquaient peu, 
le soir, dans ces avenues. EUes passaient pour etre, a partir 
du coucher du soleil, le lieu de promenade favori d'une 
* dame ' que Ton designait sous le nom de Groach Lanascol, 
— la ' Fee de Lanascol '. 

Beaucoup disaient I'avoir rencontree, et la depeignaient 
sous les couleurs, du reste, les plus di verses. Ceux-ci fai- 
saient d'elle une vieille femme, marchant toute courbee, les 

that I have a very dear lady friend whom we have christened by that 
name [fairy], but, in spite of all her fair supernatural gifts, she is only 
a humble mortal. On the other hand, I lived, when a mere child, among 
people who had almost daily intercourse with real fairies. 

That was in a little township in Lower Brittany, inhabited by peasants 
who were half sailors, and by sailors who were half peasants. There was, 
not far from the village, an ancient manor-house long abandoned by its 
owners, for what reason was not known exactly. It continued to be called 
the ' Chateau ' of Lanascol, though it was hardly more than a ruin. It is 
true that the avenues by which one approached it had retained their 
feudal aspect, with their fourfold rows of ancient beeches whose huge 
masses of foliage were reflected in splendid pools. The people of the 
neighbourhood seldom ventured into these avenues in the evening. 
They were supposed to be, from sunset onwards, the favourite walking- 
ground of a ' lady ' who went by the name of Groac'h Lanascol, the ' Fairy 
of Lanascol '. 

Many claimed to have met her, and described her in colours which 
were, however, the most varied. Some represented her as an old woman 


deux mains appuyees sur un tron9on de bequille avec lequel, 
de temps en temps, elle remuait, a I'automne, les feuilles 
mortes. Les feuilles mortes qu'elle retournait ainsi devenaient 
soudain brillantes comme de Tor et s'entrechoquaient avec 
un bruit clair de metal. Selon d'autres, c'etait une jeune 
princesse, merveilleusement paree, sur les pas de qui s'em- 
pressaient d'et ranges petits hommes noirs et silencieux» 
Elle s'avangait d'une majestueuse allure de reine. Parfois 
elle s'arretait devant un arbre, et I'arbre aussitot s'inclinait 
comme pour recevoir ses ordres. Ou bien, elle jetait un 
regard sur I'eau d'un etang, et I'etang frissonnait jusqu'en 
ses profondeurs, comme agite d'un mouvement de crainte 
sous la puissance de son regard. 

On racontait sur elle cette curieuse histoire : — 
Les proprietaires de Lanascol ayant voulu se defaire d'un 
domaine qu'ils n'habitaient plus, le manoir et les terres qui 
en dependaient furent mis en adjudication chez un not aire 
de Plouaret. Au jour fixe pour les encheres nombre d'ache- 
teurs accoururent. Les prix etaient deja montes tres haut, 
et le domaine allait ^tre adjuge, quand, a un dernier appel 
du crieur, une voix feminine, tres douce et tres imperieuse 
tout ensemble, s'eleva et dit : 
' Mille francs de plus ! ' 

who walked all bent, her two hands leaning on a stump of a crutch with 
which, in autumn, from time to time she stirred the dead leaves. The 
dead leaves which she thus stirred became suddenly shining like gold, and 
clinked against one another with the clear sound of metal. According to 
others, it was a young princess, marvellously adorned, after whom there 
hurried curious little black silent men. She advanced with a majestic 
and queenly bearing. Sometimes she stopped in front of a tree, and 
the tree at once bent down as if to receive her commands. Or again, she 
would cast a look on the water of a pool, and the pool trembled to its very 
depths, as though stirred by an access of fear beneath the potency of her look. 

The following strange story was told about her : — 

The owners of Lanascol having desired to get rid of an estate which 
they no longer occupied, the manor and lands attached to it were put up 
to auction by a notary of Plouaret. On the day fixed for the bidding a 
number of purchasers presented themselves. The price had already reached 
a large sum, and the estate was on the point of being knocked down, 
when, on a last appeal from the auctioneer, a female voice, very gentle 
and at the same time very imperious, was raised and said : 

* A thousand francs more ! ' 


II y eut grande rumeur dans la salle. Tout le monde 
chercha des yeux la personne qui avait lance cette sur- 
enchere, et qui ne pouvait ^tre qu'une femme. Mais il ne 
se trouva pas une seule femme dans I'assistance. Le notaire 
demanda : 

* Qui a parle ? ' 

De nouveau, la m^me voix se fit entendre. 

* Groac'h Lanascol ! ' repondit-elle. 

Ce fut une debandade generale. Depuis lors, il ne s'etait 
jamais presente d'acquereur, et voila pourquoi, repetait-on 
couramment, Lanascol etait tou jours a vendre. 

Si je vous ai entretenu a plaisir de la Fee de Lanascol, mon 
cher monsieur Wentz, c'est qu'elle est la premiere qui ait 
fait impression sur moi, dans mon enfance. Combien 
d'autres n'en ai-je pas connu, par la suite, a travers les 
recits de mes compatriotes des greves, des champs ou des 
bois ! La Bretagne est restee un royaume de feerie. On n'y 
pent voyager I'espace d'une lieue sans cotoyer la demeure 
de quelque fee male ou femelle. Ces jours derniers, comme 
j'accomplissais un pelerinage d'automne a I'hallucinante 
for^t de Paimpont, toute hantee encore des grands souvenirs 
de la legende celtique, je croisai, sous les opulents ombrages 

A great commotion arose in the hall. Every one's eyes sought for the 
person who had made this advance, and who could only be a woman. 
But there was not a single woman among those present. The notary asked : 

' Who spoke ? ' 

Again the same voice made itself heard. 

' The Fairy of Lanascol ! ' it replied. 

A general break-up followed. From that time forward no purchaser 
has ever appeared, and, as the current report ran, that was the reason why 
Lanascol continued to be for sale. 

I have designedly quoted to you the story of the Fairy of Lanascol, my 
dear Mr. Wentz, because she was the first to make an impression on me 
in my childhood. How many others have I come to know later on in the 
course of narratives from those who lived with me on the sandy beaches, 
in the fields or the woods ! Brittany has always been a kingdom of Faerie. 
One cannot there travel even a league without brushing past the dwelling 
of some male or female fairy. Quite lately, in the course of an autumn 
pilgrimage to the hallucinatory forest of Paimpont (or Broceliande), still 
haunted throughout by the great memories of Celtic legend, I encountered 
beneath the thick foliage of the Pas-du-Houx, a woman gathering faggots. 


du Pas-du-Houx, une ramasseuse de bois mort, avec qui je 
ne manquai pas, vous pensez bien, de lier conversation. Un 
des premiers noms que je pronon9ai fut naturellement celui 
de Viviane. 

' Viviane ! * se recria la vieille pauvresse. * Ah ! benie 
soit-elle, la bonne Dame 1 car elle est aussi bonne que 
belle... Sans sa protection, mon homme, qui travaille dans 
les coupes, serait tombe, comme un loup, sous les fusils des 
gardes...' Et elle se mit a me conter comme quoi son mari, 
un tantinet braconnier comme tons les bucherons de ces 
parages, s'etant porte, une nuit, a Taffut du chevreuil, dans 
les environs de la Butte-aux-Plaintes, avait ete surpris en 
flagrant delit par une tour nee de gardes. II voulut fuir : les 
gardes tirerent. Une balle I'atteignit a la cuisse : il tomba, 
et il s'appretait a se faire tuer sur place, plutot que de se 
rendre, lorsque, entre ses agresseurs et lui, s'interposa 
subitement une espece de brouillard tres dense qui voila 
tout, — le sol, les arbres, les gardes et le blesse lui-m^me. Et 
il entendit une voix sortie du brouillard, une voix legere 
comme un bruit de feuilles, murmurer a son oreille : * Sauve- 
toi, mon fils : Tesprit de Viviane veillera sur toi jusqu'a ce 
que tu aies rampe hors de la for^t.' 

with whom I did not fail, as you may well imagine, to enter into 
conversation. One of the first names I uttered was naturally that of 

' Vivian ! ' cried out the poor old woman. ' Ah ! a blessing on her, 
the good Lady ! for she is as good as she is beautiful. . . . Without her 
protection my good man, who works at woodcutting, would have fallen, 
like a wolf, beneath the keepers' guns. . . .' And she began to narrate 
to me ' as how ' her husband, something of a poacher like all the wood- 
cutters of these districts, had one night gone to watch for a roebuck in 
the neighbourhood of the Butte-aux-Plaintes, and had been caught red- 
handed by a party of keepers. He sought to fly : the keepers fired. 
A bullet hit him in the thigh : he fell, and was making ready to let himself 
be killed on the spot, rather than surrender, when there suddenly inter- 
posed between him and his assailants a kind of very thick mist which 
covered everything — the ground, the trees, the keepers, and the wounded 
man himself. And he heard a voice coming out of the mist, a voice gentle 
like the rustling of leaves, and murmuring in his ear : ' Save thyself, my 
son : the spirit of Vivian will watch over thee till thou hast crawled out 
of the forest.' 


* Telles furent les propres paroles de la fee,' conclut la 
ramasseuse de bois mort. 

Et, devotement, elle se signa, car la religieuse Bretagne — 
vous le savez — venere les fees a I'egal des saintes. 

J 'ignore s'il faut rattacher les lutins au monde des fees, 
mais, ce qui est sur, c'est que cette charmante et malicieuse 
engeance a toujours puUule dans notre pays. Je me suis 
laisse dire qu'autrefois chaque maison avait le sien. C'etait 
quelque chose comme le petit dieu penate. Tantot visible, 
tantot invisible, il presidait a tous les actes de la vie do- 
mestique. Mieux encore : il y participait, et de la fa^on la 
plus efficace. A I'interieur du logis, il aidait les servantes, 
soufflait le feu dans I'atre, surveillait la cuisson de la nour- 
riture pour les hommes ou pour les b^tes, apaisait les cris 
de I'enfant couche dans le bas de I'armoire, empechait les 
vers de se mettre dans les pieces de lard suspendues aux 
solives. II avait pareillement dans son lot le gouvernement 
des etables et des ecuries : grace a lui, les vaches donnaient 
un lait abondant en beurre, et les chevaux avaient la croupe 
ronde, le poil luisant. II etait, en un mot, le bon genie de 
la famille, mais c'6tait a la condition que chacun eut pour 
lui les egards auxquels il avait droit. Si peu qu'on lui 

* Such were the actual words of the fairy,' concluded the faggot-gatherer. 
And she crossed herself devoutly, for pious Brittany, as you know, reveres 
fairies as much as saints. 

I do not know if lutins (mischievous spirits) should be included in the 
fairy world, but what is certain is that this charming and roguish tribe 
has always abounded in our country. I have been told that formerly 
every house had its own. It (the lutin) was something like the little 
Roman household god. Now visible, now invisible, it presided over all 
the acts of domestic life. Nay more ; it shared in them, and in the most 
effective manner. Inside the house it helped the servants, blew up the 
fire on the hearth, supervised the cooking of the food for men or beasts, 
quieted the crying of the babe lying in the bottom of the cupboard, and 
prevented worms from settling in the pieces of bacon hanging from the 
beams. Similarly there fell within its sphere the management of the 
byres and stables : thanks to it the cows gave milk abounding in butter, 
and the horses had round croups and shining coats. It was, in a word, 
the good genius of the house, but conditionally on every one paying to 
it the respect to which it had the right. If neglected, ever so little, 


manquat, sa bonte se changeait en malice et il n'etait point 
de mauvais tours dont il ne fut capable envers les gens qui 
I'avaient offense, comme de renverser le contenu des mar- 
mites sur le foyer, d'embrouiller la laine autour des que- 
nouilles, de rendre infumable le tabac des pipes, d'emmeler 
inextricablement les crins des chevaux, de dessecher le pis 
des vaches ou de faire peler le dos des brebis. Aussi s'effor- 
9ait-on de ne le point mecontenter. On respectait soigneuse- 
ment toutes ses habitudes, toutes ses manies. C'est ainsi 
que, chez mes parents, notre vieille bonne Filie n'enlevait 
jamais le trepied du feu sans avoir la precaution de I'asperger 
d'eau pour le refroidir, avant de le ranger au coin de 
I'atre. Si vous lui demandiez pourquoi ce rite, elle vous 
repondait : 

* Pour que le lutin ne s'y brule pas, si, tout a Theure, 
il s'asseyait dessus.* 

II appartient encore, je suppose, a la categoric des 
hommes-fees, ce Bugul-Noz, ce mysterieux ' Berger de la 
nuit ' dont les Bretons des campagnes voient se dresser, au 
crepuscule, la haute et troublante silhouette, si, d'aventure, 
il leur arrive de rentrer tard du labour. On n'a jamais pu me 
renseigner exactement sur le genre de troupeau qu'il faisait 
paitre, ni sur ce que presageait sa rencontre. Le plus sou vent, 

its kindness changed into spite, and there was no unkind trick of which 
it was not capable towards people who had offended it, such as upsetting 
the contents of the pots on the hearth, entangling wool round distaffs, 
making tobacco unsmokeable, mixing a horse's mane in inextricable con- 
fusion, drying up the udders of cows, or stripping the backs of sheep. There- 
fore care was taken not to annoy it. Careful attention was paid to all its 
habits and humours. Thus, in my parents' house, our old maid Filie never 
lifted the trivet from the fire without taking the precaution of sprinkling 
it with water to cool it, before putting it away at the corner of the hearth. 
If you asked her the reason for this ceremony, she would reply to you : 
' To prevent the lutin burning himself there, if, presently, he sat on it.' 

Further, I suppose there should be included in the class of male fairies 
that Bugul-Noz, that mysterious Night Shepherd, whose tall and alarming 
outline the rural Bretons see rising in the twilight, if, by chance, they 
happen to return late from field-work. I have never been able to obtain 
exact information about the kind of herd which he fed, nor about what 
was foreboded by the meeting with him. Most often such a meeting is 


on la redoute. Mais, comme Tobservait avec raison une de 
mes conteuses, Lise Bellec, s'il est preferable d'eviter le 
Bugul-Noz, il ne s'ensuit pas, pour cela, que ce soit un 
mechant Esprit. D'apres elle, il remplirait plutot une 
fonction salutaire, en signifiant aux humains, par sa venue, 
que la nuit n'est pas faite pour s'attarder aux champs ou 
sur les chemins, mais pour s'enfermer derriere les portes 
closes et pour dormir. Ce berger des ombres serait done, 
somme toute, une maniere de bon pasteur. C'est pour 
assurer notre repos et notre securite, c'est pour nous sous- 
traire aux exces du travail et aux embuches de la nuit 
qu'il nous force, brebis imprudentes, a regagner prompte- 
ment le bercail. 

Sans doute est-ce un role tutelaire a peu pres semblable 
qui, dans la croyance populaire, est devolu a un autre 
homme-fee, plus specialement affecte au rivage de la mer, 
comme Tindique son nom de Yann-An-Od. II n'y a pas, 
sur tout le littoral maritime de la Bretagne ou, comme on 
dit, dans tout Varmor, une seule region oil Texistence de ce 
* Jean des Greves ' ne soit tenue pour un fait certain, dument 
constate, indeniable. On lui pr^te des formes variables et 
des aspects differents. C'est tantot un geant, tantot un 
nain. II porte tantot un * suroit ' de toile huilee, tantot 
un large chapeau de feutre noir. Parfois, il s'appuie sur une 

^jdreaded. Yet, as one of my female informants, Lise Bellec, reasonably 
pointed out, if it is preferable to avoid the Bugul-Noz it does not from that 
follow that he is a harmful spirit. According to her, he would rather fulfil 
a beneficial office, in warning human beings, by his coming, that night is not 
made for lingering in the fields or on the roads, but for shutting oneself in 
behind closed doors and going to sleep. This shepherd of the shades would 
then be, take it altogether, a kind of good shepherd. It is to ensure our 
rest and safety, to withdraw us from excesses of toil and the snares of night, 
that he compels us, thoughtless sheep, to return quickly to the fold. 

No doubt it is an almost similar protecting office which, in popular 
belief, has fallen to another male fairy, more particularly attached to the 
seashore, as his name, Yann-A n-Od, indicates. There is not, along all the 
coast of Brittany or, as it is called, in all the A rmor, a single district where 
the existence of this ' John of the Dunes ' is not looked on as a real fact, 
fully proved and undeniable. Changing forms and different aspects are 
attributed to him. Sometimes he is a giant, sometimes a dwarf. Some- 
times he wears a seaman's hat of oiled cloth, sometimes a broad black 
felt hat. At times he leans on an oar and recalls the enigmatic personage, 


rame et fait penser au personnage enigmatique, arme du 
meme attribut, qu'Ulysse doit suivre, dans VOdyssee. Mais, 
toujours, c'est un heros marin dont la mission est de par- 
courir les plages, en poussant par intervalles de longs cris 
stridents, propres a effrayer les p^cheurs qui se seraient 
laisse surprendre dehors par les tenebres de la nuit. II ne 
fait de mal qu'a ceux qui recalcitrent ; encore ne les frappe- 
t-il que dans leur interet, pour les contraindre a se mettre 
a I'abri. II est, avant tout, un * avertisseur '. Ses cris ne 
rappellent pas seulement au logis les gens attardes sur les 
greves ; ils signalent aussi le dangereux voisinage de la cote 
aux marins qui sont en mer et, par la, suppleent a rinsuffisance 
du mugissement des sirenes ou de la lumiere des phares. 

Remarquons, a ce propos, qu'on releve un trait analogue 
dans la legende des vieux saints armoricains, pour la plupart 
emigres d'lrlande. Un de leurs exercices coutumiers con- 
sistait a deambuler de nuit le long des cotes ou ils avaient 
etabli leurs oratoires, en agitant des clochettes de fer battu 
dont les tintements etaient destines, comme les cris de 
Yann-An-Od, a prevenir les navigateurs que la terre etait 

Je suis persuade que le culte des saints, qui est la pre- 
miere et la plus fervente des devotions bretonnes, conserve 
bien des traits d'une religion plus ancienne ou la croyance 

possessed of the same attribute, whom Ulysses has to follow, in the Odyssey. 
But he is always a marine hero whose office it is to traverse the shores, 
uttering at intervals long piercing cries, calculated to frighten away 
fishermen who may have allowed themselves to be surprised outside 
by the darkness of night. He only hurts those who resist ; and even then 
would only strike them in their own interest, to force them to seek shelter. 
He is, before all, one who warns. His cries not only call back home people 
out late on the sands; they also inform sailors at sea of the dangerous 
proximity of the shore, and, thereby, make up for the insufficiency of the 
hooting of sirens or of the light of lighthouses. 

We may remark, in this connexion, that a parallel feature is observed 
in the legend of the old Armorican saints, who were mostly emigrants from 
Ireland. One of their usual exercises consisted in parading throughout 
the night the coasts where they had set up their oratories, shaking little 
bells of wrought iron, the ringing of which, like the cries of Yann-An-Od, 
was intended to warn voyagers that land was near. 

I am persuaded that the worship of saints, which is the first and most 
fervent of Breton religious observances, preserves many of the features 



aux fees jouait le principal role. Et il en va de meme, j'en 
suis convaincu, pources mythes funer aires que j'ai recueillis 
sous le titre de La Legende de la Mort chez les Bretons airmo- 
ricains. A vrai dire, dans la conception bretonne, les morts 
ne sont pas morts ; ils vivent d'une vie mysterieuse en 
marge de la vie reelle, mais leur monde reste, en definitive, 
tout mele au notre et, sitot que la nuit tombe, sitot que les 
vivants proprement dits s'abandonnent a la mort momen- 
tanee du sommeil, les soi-disant morts redeviennent les 
habitants de la terre qu'ils n'ont jamais quittee. lis repren- 
nent leur place a leur foyer d' autrefois, ils vaquent a leurs 
anciens travaux, ils s'interessent au logis, aux champs, a la 
barque ; ils se comportent, en un mot, comme ce peuple des 
hommes et des femmes-fees qui formait jadis une espece 
d'humanite plus fine et plus delicate au milieu de la veritable 

J'aurais encore, mon cher monsieur Wentz, bien d'autres 
types a evoquer, dans cet intermonde de la feerie bretonne 
qui, chez mes compatriotes, ne se confond ni avec ce monde- 
ci, ni avec I'autre, mais participe a la fois de tons les deux, 
par un singulier melange de naturel et de surnaturel. Je 
n*ai voulu, en ces lignes rapides, que montrer la richesse de 
la matiere a laquelle vous avez, avec tant de conscience et 

of a more ancient religion in which a belief in fairies held the chief place. 
The same, I feel sure, applies to those death-myths which I have collected 
under the name of the Legend of the Dead among the Armorican Bretons. 
In truth, in the Breton mind, the dead are not dead ; they live a mysterious 
life on the edge of real life, but their world remains fully mingled with ours, 
and as soon as night falls, as soon as the living, properly so called, give 
themselves up to the temporary sleep of death, the so-called dead again 
become the inhabitants of the earth which they have never left. They 
resume their place at their former hearth, devote themselves to their old 
work, take an interest in the home, the fields, the boat ; they behave, in 
a word, like the race of male and female fairies which once formed a more 
refined and delicate species of humanity in the midst of ordinary humanity. 

I might, my dear Mr. Wentz, evoke many other types from this inter- 
mediate world of Breton Faerie, which, in my countrymen's mind, is not 
identical with this world nor with the other, but shares at once in both, 
through a curious mixture of the natural and supernatural. I have only in- 
tended in these hasty lines to show the wealth of material to which you have 


de ferveur, applique votre effort. Et maintenant, que les 
fees vous soient douces, mon cher ami ! EUes ne seront que 
justes en favorisant de toute leur tendresse le jeune et bril- 
lant ecrivain qui vient de restaurer leur culte en renovant 
leur gloire. 

• ce i*'^ novembre 1910. 

Breton Fairies or F^es 

In Lower Brittany, which is the genuinely Celtic part of 
Armorica, instead of finding a widespread folk-belief in fairies 
of the kind existing in Wales, Ireland, and Scotland, we find 
a widespread folk-belief in the existence of the dead, and to a 
less extent in that of the corrigan tribes. For our Psychological 
Theory this is very significant. It seems to indicate that 
among the Bretons — who are one of the most conservative 
Celtic peoples — the Fairy-Faith finds its chief expression in 
a belief that men live after death in an invisible world, just 
as in Ireland the dead and fairies live in Fairyland. This 
opinion was first suggested to me by Professor Anatole Le 
Braz, author of La Legende de la Mort, and by Professor 
Georges Dottin, both of the University of Rennes. But 
before evidence to sustain and to illustrate this opinion is 
offered, it will be well to consider the less important Breton 
fees or beings like them, and then corrigans and nains (dwarfs). 

The ' Grac'hed Coz\ — F. M. Luzel, who collected so many 
of the popular stories in Brittany, found that what few 
fees or fairies there are almost always appear in folk-lore 
as little old women, or as the Breton story-teller usually 
calls them, Grac'hed coz. I have selected and abridged 

with so much conscientiousness and ardour devoted your efforts. And now 
may the fairies be propitious to you, my dear friend ! They will do nothing 
but justice in favouring with all their goodwill the young and brilliant writer 
who has but now revived their cult by renewing their glory. 

November i, 1910. 

O 2 


the following legendary tale from his works to illustrate the 
nature of these Breton fairy-folk : — 

In ancient times, as we read in La Princesse Blondine, 
a rich nobleman had three sons ; the oldest was called Cado, 
the second, Meliau, and the youngest, Yvon. One day, as 
they were together in a forest with their bows and arrows, 
they met a little old woman whom they had never seen before, 
and she was carrying on her head a jar of water. * Are you 
able, lads,' Cado asked his two brothers, * to break with an 
arrow the jar of the little old woman without touching her ? ' 
* We do not wish to try it,' they said, fearing to injure the 
good woman. ' All right, I'll do it then, watch me.' And 
Cado took his bow and let fly an arrow. The arrow went 
straight to its mark and split the jar without touching the 
little old woman ; but the water wet her to the skin, and, in 
anger, she said to the skilful archer : * You have failed, Cado, 
and I will be revenged on you for this. From now until you 
have found the Princess Blondine all the members of your 
body will tremble as leaves on a tree tremble when the north 
wind blows.' And instantly Cado was seized by a trembling 
malady in all his body. The three brothers returned home 
and told their father what had happened ; and the father, 
turning to Cado, said : ' Alas, my unfortunate son, you have 
failed. It is now necessary for you to travel until you find 
the Princess Blondine, as the fee said, for that little old 
woman was a fee, and no doctor in the world can cure the 
malady she has put upon you.' ^ 

' Fees ' of Lower Brittany. — Throughout the Morbihan and 
Finistere, I found that stories about fees are much less com- 
mon than about corrigans, and in some localities extremely 
rare ; but the ones I have been fortunate enough to collect 
are much the same in character as those gathered in the 
Cotes-du-Nord by Luzel, and elsewhere by other collectors. 
Those I here record were told to me at Carnac during the 
summer of 1909 ; the first one by M. Yvonne Daniel, 

* Cf. F. M. Luzel, Contes populaires de Basse-Bretagne (Paris, 1887), 
i. 177-97 ; following the account of Ann Drann, a servant at Coat-Fual, 
Plouguernevel (C6tes-du-Nord), November 1855. 


a native of the lie de Croix (off the coast north-west of 
Carnac) ; and the others by M. Goulven Le Scour .^ 

* The Httle lie de Croix was especially famous for its old 
fees ; and the following legend is still believed by its oldest 
inhabitants : — " An aged man who had suffered long from 
leprosy was certain to die within a short time, when a woman 
bent double with age entered his house. She asked from 
what malady he suffered, and on being informed began to 
say prayers. Then she breathed upon the sores of the 
leper, and almost suddenly disappeared : the fee had cured 
him." ' 

* It is certain that about fifty years ago the people in 
Finis tere still believed in fees. It was thought that the fees 
were spirits who came to predict some unexpected event in 
the family. They came especially to console orphans who 
had very unkind step-mothers. In their youth, Tanguy du 
Chatel and his sister Eudes were protected by a fee against 
the misfortune which pursued them ; the history of Brittany 
says so. In Leon it is said that the fees served to guide 
unfortunate people, consoling them with the promise of 
a happy and victorious future. In the Cornouailles, on the 
contrary, it is said that the fees were very evilly disposed, 
that they were demons. 

* My grandmother, Marie Le Bras, had related to me that 
one evening an old fee arrived in my village, Kerouledic 
(Finistere), and asked for hospitality. It was about the year 
1830. The fee was received ; and before going to bed she 
predicted that the little daughter whom the mother was 
dressing in night-clothes would be found dead in the cradle 
the next day. This prediction was only laughed at ; but in 
the morning the little one was dead in her cradle, her eyes 
raised toward Heaven. The/<?'^, who had slept in the stable, 
was gone.' 

* My Breton friend, M. Goulven Le Scour, was born November 20, 
185 1, at Kerouledic in Plouneventer, Finistere. He is an antiquarian, 
a poet, and, as we shall see, a folk-lorist of no mean ability. In 1902, at 
the Congres d'Auray of Breton poets and singers, he won two prizes for 
poetry, and, in 1901, a prize at the Congres de Quimperle or Concours de 

Recueils poetiques. 


In these last three accounts, by M. Le Scour, we observe 
three quite different ideas concerning the Breton fairies or 
fees : in Finistere and in Leon the fees are regarded as good 
protecting spirits, almost like ancestral spirits, which origin- 
ally they may have been ; in the Cornouailles they are evil 
spirits ; while in the third account, about the old fee — and 
in the legend of the leper cured by a fee — the fees are ration- 
alized, as in Luzel's tale quoted above, into sorceresses or 
Grac'hed Coz. 

Children Changed by ' Fees '. — M. Goulven Le Scour, at 
my request, wrote down in French the following account of 
actual changelings in Finistere : — ' I remember very well 
that there was a woman of the village of Kergoff, in Ploune- 

venter, who was called ,^ the mother of a family. When 

she had her first child, a very strong and very pretty boy, 
she noticed one morning that he had been changed during 
the night ; there was no longer the fine baby she had put 
to bed in the evening ; there was, instead, an infant hideous 
to look at, greatly deformed, hunchbacked, and crooked, 
and of a black colour. The poor woman knew that a fee 
had entered the house during the night and had changed 
her child. 

* This changed infant still lives, and to-day he is about 
seventy years old. He has all the possible vices ; and he 
has tried many times to kill his mother. He is a veritable 
demon ; he often predicts the future, and has a habit of 
running abroad during the night. They call him the " Little 
Corrigan ", and everybody flees from him. Being poor and 
infirm now, he has been obliged to beg, and people give him 
alms because they have great fear of him. His nick-name 
is Olier. 

* This woman had a second, then a third child, both of 
whom were seen by everybody to have been born with no 
infirmity ; and, in turn, each of these two was stolen by 
z.fee and replaced by a httle hunchback. The second child 
was a most beautiful daughter. She was taken during the 

* This story concerns persons still living, and, at M. Le Scour's sugges- 
tion, I have omitted their names. 


night and replaced by a little girl babe, so deformed that it 
resembled a ball. If her brother Olier was bad, she was even 
worse ; she was the terror of the village, and they called 
her Anniac. The third child met the same luck, but was not 
so bad as the first and second. 

* The poor mother, greatly worried at seeing what had 
happened, related her troubles to another woman. This 
woman said to her, " If you have another child, place with 
it in the cradle a little sprig of box-wood which has been 
blessed (by a priest), and the fee will no longer have the 
power of stealing your children." And when a fourth child 
was born to the unfortunate woman it was not stolen, for 
she placed in the cradle a sprig of box-wood which had been 
blessed on Palm Sunday (Dimanche des Ramcaux)} 

* The first three children I knew very well, and they were 
certainly hunchbacked : it is pretended in the country that 
the fees who come at night to make changelings always 
leave in exchange hunchbacked infants. It is equally pre- 
tended that a mother who has had her child so changed need 
do nothing more than leave the little hunchback out of 
doors crying during entire hours, and that the fee hearing it 
will come and put the true child in its place. Unfortunately, 

Yvonna did not know what she should have done in 

order to have her own children again.' 

Transformation Power of ' Fees '. — At Kerallan, near 
Carnac, this is what Madame Louise Le Rouzic said about 
the transformation power of fees : — ' It is said that the fees 
of the region when insulted sometimes changed men into 
beasts or into stones.' "^ 

Other Breton Fairies. — Besides the various types of fees 
already described, we find in Luzel's collected stories a few 

^ By a Carnac family I was afterwards given a sprig of such blessed 
box- wood, and was assured that its exorcizing power is still recognized by 
all old Breton families, most of whom seem to possess branches of it. 

* This idea seems related to the one in the popular Morbihan legend of 
how St. Comely, the patron saint of the country and the saint who presides 
over the Alignements and domestic horned animals, changed into upright 
stones the pagan forces opposing liim when he arrived near Carnac ; and 
these stones are now the famous Alignements of Carnac. 


other types of fairy-like beings : in Les Compagnons (The 
Companions),^ the fee is a magpie in a forest near Rennes — 
just as in other Celtic lands, fairies likewise often appear as 
birds (see our study, pp. 302 ff .) ; in La Princesse de Vfyoile 
Brillante (The Princess of the Brilliant Star),^ a princess 
under the form of a duck plays the part of a fairy (cf. how 
fairy women took the form of water-fowls in the tale entitled 
the Sick Bed of Cuchulainn (see our study, p. 345) ; in Pipi 
Menou et les Femmes Volantes (Pipi Menou and the Flying 
Women) ,^ there are fairy women as swan-maidens ; and 
then there are yet to be mentioned Les Morgans de Vile 
d'Ouessant (The Morgans of the Isle of Ushant), who live 
under the sea in rare palaces where mortals whom they love 
and marry are able to exist with them. In some legends of 
the Morgans, like one recorded by Luzel, the men and women 
of this water-fairy race, or the Morgans and Morganezed, 
seem like anthropomorphosed survivals of ancient sea- 
divinities, such, for example, as the sea-god called Shony, 
to whom the people of Lewis, Western Hebrides, still pour 
libations that he may send in sea-weed, and the sea-god to 
whom anciently the people of lona poured libations. ^ 

The * Morgan \ — To M. J. Cuillandre (Glanmor), Presi- 
dent of the Federation des ^tudiants Bretons, I am indebted 
for the following weird legend of the Morgan, as it is told 
among the Breton fisher-folk on the tie Molene, Finistere : — 
' Following a legend which I have collected on the tie Molene, 
the Morgan is a fairy eternally young, a virgin seductress 
whose passion, never satisfied, drives her to despair. Her 
place of abode is beneath the sea ; there she possesses mar- 
vellous palaces where gold and diamonds glimmer. Accom- 
panied by other fairies, of whom she is in some respects the 
queen, she rises to the surface of the waters in the splendour 
of her unveiled beauty. By day she slumbers amid the cool- 
ness of grottoes, and woe to him who troubles her sleep. 
By night she lets herself be lulled by the waves in the neigh- 
bourhood of the rocks. The sea-foam crystallizes at her 

* Luzel, op. cit., iii. 226-311 ; i. 128-218 ; ii. 349-54. 

* lb., ii. 269 ; cf., p. 93. 


touch into precious stones, of whiteness as dazzHng as that 
of her body. By moonHght she moans as she combs her fair 
hair with a comb of fine gold, and she sings in a harmonious 
voice a plaintive melody whose charm is irresistible. The 
sailor who listens to it feels himself drawn toward her, without 
power to break the charm which drags him onward to his 
destruction ; the bark is broken upon the reefs : the man is 
in the sea, and the Morgan utters a cry of joy. But the arms 
of the fairy clasp only a corpse ; for at her touch men die, 
and it is this which causes the despair of the amorous and 
inviolate Morgan. She being pagan, it suffices to have been 
touched by her in order to suffer the saddest fate which can 
be reserved to a Christian. The unfortunate one whom she 
had clasped is condemned to wander for ever in the trough 
of the waters, his eyes wide open, the mark of baptism effaced 
from his forehead. Never will his poor remains know the 
sweetness of reposing in holy ground, never will he have 
a tomb where his kindred might come to pray and to weep/ 
Origin of the * Morgan \ — The following legendary origin 
is attributed to the Morgan by M. Goulven Le Scour, our 
Carnac witness : — * Following the old people and the Breton 
legends, the Morgan {Mart Morgan in Breton) was Dahut, 
the daughter of King Gradlon, who was ruler of the city of 
Is. Legend records that when Dahut had entered at night 
the bedchamber of her father and had cut from around his 
neck the cord which held the key of the sea-dike flood-gates, 
and had given this key to the Black Prince, under whose evil 
love she had fallen, and who, according to belief, was no 
other than the Devil, St. Guenole soon afterwards began to 
cry aloud, " Great King, arise ! The flood-gates are open, 
and the sea is no longer restrained ! " ^ Suddenly the old 
King Gradlon arose, and, leaping on his horse, was fleeing 
from the city with St. Guenole, when he encountered his 

* According to the annotations to a legend recorded by Villemarque, 
in his Barzaz Breiz, pp. 39-44, and entitled the Submersion de la Ville d'ISy 
St. Guenole was traditionally the founder of the first monastery raised in 
Armorica ; and Dahut the princess stole the key from her sleeping father 
in order fittingly to crown a banquet and midnight debaucheries which 
were being held in honour of her lover, the Black Prince. 


own daughter amid the waves. She piteously begged aid of 
her father, and he took her up behind him on the horse ; 
but St. Guenole, seeing that the waters were gaining on 
them, said to the king, " Throw into the sea the demon you 
have behind you, and we shall be saved ! " Thereupon 
Gradlon flung his daughter into the abyss, and he and 
St. Guenole were saved. Since that time, the fishermen 
declare that they have seen, in times of rough sea and clear 
moonlight, Dahut, daughter of King Gradlon, sitting on the 
rocks combing her fair hair and singing, in the place where 
her father flung her. And to-day there is recognized under 
the Breton name Marie Morgan, the daughter who sings 
amid the sea.' 

Breton Fairyland Legends. — In a legend concerning Mona 
and the king of the Morgans, much like the Christabel story 
of English poets, we have a picture of a fairyland not under 
ground, but under sea ; and this legend of Mona and her 
Morgan lover is one of the most beautiful of all the fairy- 
tales of Brittany.^ Another one of Luzel's legends, concern- 
ing a maiden who married a dead man, shows us Fairyland 
as a world of the dead. It is a very strange legend, and one 
directly bearing on the Psychological Theory ; for this dead 
man, who is a dead priest, has a palace in a realm of enchant- 
ment, and to enter his country one must have a white fairy- 
wand with which to strike * in the form of a cross ' two blows 
upon the rock concealing the entrance.^ M. Paul Sebillot 
records from Upper Brittany a tradition that beneath the 
sea-waves there one can see a subterranean world contain- 
ing fields and villages and beautiful castles ; and it is so 
pleasant a world that mortals going there find years no 
longer than days.^ 

Fairies of Upper Brittany.^ — Principally in Upper Brittany, 
M. Sebillot found rich folk-lore concerning fees, though 

* Luzel, op. cit., ii. 257-68 ; i. 3-13. 

' P. Sebillot, Traditions et superstitions de la Haute-Bretagne (Paris, 
1882), i. 100. 

• General references : Sebillot, ib. ; and his Folk-Lore de France (Paris, 


somie of his material is drawn from peasants and fishermen 
who are not so purely Celtic as those in Lower Brittany ; 
and he very concisely summarizes the various names there 
given to the fairy-folk as follows : — ' They are generally 
called Fees (Fairies), sometimes Fetes (Fates), a name 
nearer than fees to the Latin Fata ; Fete (fem.) and Fete 
(mas.) are both used, and from Fete is probably derived 
Faito or Faitaud, which is the name borne by the fathers, 
the husbands, or the children of the fees (Saint-Cast) . Near 
Saint-Briac (Ille-et-Vilaine) they are sometimes called Fioits ; 
this term, which is applied to both sexes, seems also to 
designate the mischievous lutins (sprites) . Round the Mene, 
in the cantons of Collinee and of Moncontour, they are called 
M argot la Fee, or ma Commere (my Godmother) M argot, or even 
the Bonne Fenime (Good Woman) Mar got. On the coast they 
are often enough called by the name of Bonnes Dames (Good 
Ladies), or of nos Bonnes Meres les Fees (our Good Mothers the 
Fairies) ; usually they are spoken of with a certain respect/ ^ 
As the same authority suggests, probably the most charac- 
teristic Fees in Upper Brittany are the Fees des Routes 
(Fairies of the Billows) ; and traditions say that they lived 
in natural caverns or grottoes in the sea-cliffs. They form 
a distinct class of sea-fairies unknown elsewhere in France 
or Eur ope. 2 M. Sebillot regards them as sea-divinities 
greatly rationalized. Associated with them are the fions, 
a race of dwarfs having swords no bigger than pins.^ A 
pretty legend about magic buckwheat cakes, which in 
different forms is widespread throughout all Brittany, is 
told of these little cave-dwelling fairies : — 

Like the larger fees the fions kept cattle ; and one day 
a black cow belonging to the fions of Pont-aux-Hommes- 
Nees ate the buckwheat in the field of a woman of that 
neighbourhood. The woman went to ih.^ fions to complain, 
and in reply to her a voice said : * Hold your tongue ; you 
will be paid for your buckwheat ! ' Thereupon the fions 
gave the woman a cupful of buckwheat, and promised her 

^ Sebillot, Traditions et superstitions de la Hattle-Brctagne, i. 73-4. 
' lb., i. 102, 103-4. 


that it would never diminish so long as none should be given 
away. That year buckwheat was very scarce, but no matter 
how many buckwheat cakes the woman and her family ate 
there was never diminution in the amount of the fairy 
buckwheat. At last, however, the unfortunate hour came. 
A rag-gatherer arrived and asked for food. Thoughtlessly 
the woman gave him one of her buckwheat cakes, and 
suddenly, as though by magic, all the rest of the buckwheat 
disappeared for ever. 

Along the Ranee the inhabitants tell about fees who appear 
during storms. These storm-fairies are dressed in the colours 
of the rainbow, and pass along following a most beautiful /<?'(p 
who is mounted in a boat made from a nautilus of the southern 
seas. And the boat is drawn by two sea-crabs. In no other 
place in Brittany are similar fees said to exist.^ In Upper 
Brittany, as in Lower Brittany, the fees generally had their 
abodes in tumuli, in dolmens, in forests, in waste lands where 
there are great rocks, or about menhirs ; and many other 
kinds of spirits lived in the sea and troubled sailors and 
fisher-folk. Like all fairy-folk of Celtic countries, those of 
Upper Brittany were given to stealing children. Thus at 
Dinard not long ago there was a woman more than thirty 
years old who was no bigger than a girl of ten, and it was 
said she was a fairy changeling.^ In Lower Brittany the 
taking of children was often attributed to dwarfs rather than 
to fees, though the method of making the changeling speak 
is the same as in Upper Brittany, namely, to place in such 
a manner before an open fire a number of eggshells filled with 
water that they appear to the changeling — who is placed 
where he can well observe all the proceedings — like so many 
small pots of cooking food ; whereupon, being greatly aston- 
ished at the unusual sight, he forgets himself and speaks 
for the first time, thus betraying his demon nature. 

The following midwife story, as told by J. M. Comault, of 
Gouray, in 1881, is quite a parallel to the one we have 
recorded (on p. 54) as coming from Grange, Ireland : — 

* Sebillot, Traditions et superstitions de la Haute-Bretagne, i. 83. 
" lb., i. 90-1. 


A midwife who delivered a Margot la fee carelessly allowed 
some of the fairy ointment to get on one of her own eyes. 
The eye at once became clairvoyant, so that she beheld the 
fees in their true nature. And, quite like a midwife in a 
similar story about i\iefees des hotiles, this midwife happened 
to see a fee in the act of stealing, and spoke to her. There- 
upon the fee asked the midwife with which eye she beheld 
her, and when the midwife indicated which one it was, the 
fee pulled it out.^ 

Generally, like their relatives in insular Celtdom, the 
fairies of Upper Brittany could assume various forms, and 
could even transform the human body ; and they were 
given to playing tricks on mortals, and always to taking 
revenge on them if ill-treated. In most w^ays they were like 
other races of fairies, Celtic and non-Celtic, though very 
much anthropomorphosed in their nature by the peasant 
and mariner. 

As a rule, the fees of Upper Brittany are described in 
legend as young and very beautiful. Some, however, appear 
to be centuries old, with teeth as long as a human hand, and 
with backs covered with seaweeds, and mussels, or other 
marine growths, as an indication of their great age.^ At 
Saint-Cast they are said to be dressed (like the corrigans at 
Carnac, see p. 208) in toile, a kind of heavy linen cloth.^ 

On the sea-coast of Upper Brittany the popular opinion is 
that the fees are a fallen race condemned to an earthly exile 
for a certain period. In the region of the Mene, canton of 
Collinee, the old folk say that, after the angels revolted, 
those left in paradise were divided into two parts : those 
who fought on the side of God and those who remained 
neutral. These last, already half -fallen, were sent to the 
earth for a time, and became the fees.^ 

The general belief in the interior of Brittany is that the 
fees once existed, but that they disappeared as their country 
was changed by modern conditions. In the region of the 
Mene and of Erce (lUe-et-Vilaine) it is said that for more 
than a century there have been no fees ; and on the sea-coast^ 

* Cf. ib., i. 109. • Cf. ib., i. 74-5, &c. 


where it is still firmly believed that the fees used to live in 
the billows or amid certain grottoes in the cliffs against 
which the billows broke, the opinion is that they disappeared 
at the beginning of the last century. The oldest Bretons 
say that their parents or grandparents often spoke about 
having seen fees, but very rarely do they say that they 
themselves have seen fees. M. Sebillot found only two who 
had One was an old needle- woman of Saint-Cast, who had 
such fear of fees that if she was on her way to do some 
sewing in the country, and it was night, she always took 
a long circuitous route to avoid passing near a field known 
as the Convent des Fees. The other was Marie Chehu, 
a woman eighty-eight years old.^ 

The Corrigan Race^ 

It is the corrigan race, however, which, more than fees or 
fairies, forms a large part of the invisible inhabitants of 
Brittany ; and this race of corrigans and nains (dwarfs) 
may be made to include many kinds of lutins, or as they are 
often called by the peasant, follets or esprits f diets (playful 
elves). Though the peasants both in Upper and in Lower 
Brittany may have no strong faith in fees, most of them say 
that corrigans, or nains, and mischievous house-haunting 
spirits still exist. But in a few localities, as M. Sebillot 
discovered, there is an opinion that the lutins departed with 
the fees, and with them will return in this century, because 
during each century with an odd number like 1900, the fairy 
tribes of all kinds are said to be visible or to reappear among 
men, and to become invisible or to disappear during each 
century with an even number like 1800. So this is the visible 

Corrigans and follets only show themselves at night, or in 
the twilight. No one knows where they pass the day-time. 

* Cf. Sebillot, Traditions et superstitions de la Haute-Bretagne,i, 74-^, Sec. 

* In Lower Brittany the corrigan tribes collectively are commonly called 
Corriket, masculine plural of Corrik, diminutive of Corr, meaning ' Dwarf ' ; 
or Corriganed, feminine plural of Corrigan, meaning ' Little Dwarf '. 
Many other forms are in use. (Cf. R. F. Le Men, Trad, et supers, de la 
Basse-Bretagne, in Rev. Celt., i. 226-7.) 


Some lutins or follets, after the manner of Scotch kelpies, 
hve solitary lives in lakes or ponds (whereas corrigans are 
socially united in groups or families), and amuse themselves 
by playing tricks on travellers passing by after dark. Sou- 
vestre records a story showing how the lutins can assume 
any animal form, but that their natural form is that of 
a little man dressed in green ; and that the corrigans have 
declared war on them for being too friendly to men.^ From 
what follows about lutins, by M. Goulven Le Scour, they 
show affinity with Pucks and such shape-shifting hobgoblins 
as are found in Wales : — ' The lutins were little dwarfs who 
generally appeared at cross-roads to attack belated travellers. 
And it is related in Breton legends that these lutins some- 
times transformed themselves into black horses or into 
goats ; and whoever then had the misfortune to encounter 
them sometimes found his life in danger, and was always 
seized with great terror.' But generally, what the Breton 
peasant tells about corrigans he is apt to tell at another time 
about lutins. And both tribes of beings, so far as they can 
be distinguished, are the same as the elfish peoples — pixies 
in Cornwall, Robin Good- fellows in England, goblins in Wales, 
or brownies in Scotland. Both corrigans and lutins are 
supposed to guard hidden treasure ; some trouble horses at 
night ; some, like their English cousins, may help in the 
house-work after all the family are asleep ; some cause 
nightmare ; some carry a torch like a Welsh death-candle ; 
some trouble men and women like obsessing spirits ; and 
nearly all of them are mischievous. In an article in the 
Revue des Traditions Populaires (v. loi), M. Sebillot has 
classified more than fifty names given to lutins and corrigans 
in Lower Brittany, according to the form under which these 
spirits appear, their peculiar traits, dwelling-places, and the 
country they inhabit. 

Like the fairies in Britain and Ireland, the corrigans and 
the Cornish pixies find their favourite amusement in the 
circular dance. When the moon is clear and bright they 
gather for their frolic near menhirs, and dolmens, and 

* Cf. Foyer breton, i. 199. 



tumuli, and at cross-roads, or even in the open country ; 
and they never miss an opportunity of enticing a mortal 
passing by to join them. If he happens to be a good-natured 
man and enters their sport heartily, they treat him quite as 
a companion, and may even do him some good turn ; but if 
he is not agreeable they will make him dance until he falls 
down exhausted, and should he commit some act thoroughly 
displeasing to them he will meet their certain revenge. Accord- 
ing to a story reported from Lorient (Morbihan) ^ it is taboo 
for the corrigans to make a complete enumeration of the 
days of the week : — 

The * Corrigan ' Taboo. — ' At night, the corrigans dance, 
singing, " Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday " ; 
they are prohibited from completing the enumeration of the 
days of the week. A corrigan having had the misfortune to 
permit himself to be tempted to add " Saturday ", immedi- 
ately became hunchbacked. His comrades, stupefied and 
distressed, attempted in vain to knock in his hump with 
blows of their fists.' 

* Corrigans ' at Carnac. — How the tradition of the dancing 
corrigans and their weekday song still lives, appears from 
the following accounts which I found at and near Carnac, 
the first account having been given during January 1909 
by Madame Marie Ezanno, of Carnac, then sixty-six years 
old : — ' The corrigans are little dwarfs who formerly, by 
moonlight, used to dance in a circle on the prairies. They 
sang a song the couplet of which was not understood, but 
only the refrain, translated in Breton : " Di Lun (Monday), 
Di Merh (Tuesday), Di Merhier (Wednesday).** 

* They whistled in order to assemble. Where they danced 
mushrooms grew ; and it was necessary to maintain silence 
so as not to interrupt them in their dance. They were often 
very brutal towards a man who fell under their power, and 
if they had a grudge against him they would make him 
submit to the greatest tortures. The peasants believed 
strongly in the corrigans, because they thus saw them and 
heard them. The corrigans dressed in very coarse white 

* By ' E. R.', in MHusine (Paris), i. 1 14. 


linen cloth. They were mischievous spirits [esprits follels), 
who lived under dolmens.' 

One morning, M. Lemort and myself called upon Madame 
Louise Le Rouzic in her neat home at Kerallan, a little 
group of thatched cottages about a mile from Carnac. 
As we entered, Madame Le Rouzic herself was sitting on 
a long wooden bench by the window knitting, and her 
daughter was watching the savoury-smelling dinner as it 
boiled in great iron pots hanging from chains over a brilliant 
fire on the hearth. Large gleaming brass basins were ranged 
on a shelf above the broad open chimney-place wherein the 
fire burned, and massive bedsteads carved after the Breton 
style stood on the stone floor. When many things had been 
talked about, our conversation turned to corrigans, and then 
the good woman of the house told us these tales : — 

* Corrigans ' at Church. — * In former times a young girl 
having taken the keys of the church (presumably at Carnac) 
and having entered it, found the corrigans about to dance ; 
and the corrigans were singing, " Lundi, Mardi " (Monday, 
Tuesday). On seeing the young girl, they stopped, sur- 
rounded her, and invited her to dance with them. She 
accepted, and, in singing, added to their song " Mercredi " 
(Wednesday). In amazement, the corrigans cried joyfully, 
" She has added something to our song ; what shall we give 
her as recompense ? " And they gave her a bracelet. A 
friend of hers meeting her, asked where the fine bracelet 
came from ; and the young girl told what had happened. 
The second girl hurried to the church, and found the corri- 
gans still dancing the rond. She joined their dance, and, in 
singing, added " Jeudi " (Thursday) to their song ; but that 
broke the cadence ; and the corrigans in fury, instead of 
recompensing her wished to punish her. " What shall we 
do to her ? " one of them cried. " Let the day be as night 
to her ! " the others replied. And by day, wherever she 
went, she saw only the night.' 

The ' Corrigans' ' Sabbath. — * Where my grandfather lived,' 
continued Madame Le Rouzic, ' there was a young girl who 
went to the sabbath of the corrigans ; and when she returned 



and was asked where she had been, said, " I have travelled 
over water, wood, and hedges." And she related all she had 
seen and heard. Then one night, afterwards, the corrigans 
came into the house, beat her, and dragged her from bed. 
Upon hearing the uproar, my grandfather arose and found 
the girl lying fiat on the stone floor. ** Never question me 
again,'* she said to him, " or they will kill me." ' ^ 

' Corrigans ' as Fairies. — Some Breton legends give corri- 
gans the chief characteristics of fairies in Celtic Britain and 
Ireland ; and Villemarque in his Barzaz Breiz (pp. 25-30) 
makes the Breton word corrigan synonymous with fee or 
fairy, thus : — ' Le Seigneur Nann et la Fee (Aofrou Nann hag 
ar Corrigan).* In this legend the corrigan seems clearly 
enough to be a water-fairy : ' The Korrigan was seated at 
the edge of her fountain, and she was combing her long fair 
hair.* But unlike most water-fairies, the Fee lives in a grotto, 
which, according to Villemarque, is one of those ancient 
monuments called in Breton dolmen, or ti ar corrigan ; in 
French, Table de pierres, or Grotte aux Fees — ^like the famous 
one near Rennes. The fountain where the Fee was seated 
seems to be one of those sacred fountains, which, as Ville- 
marque says, are often found near a Grotte aux Fees, and 
called Fontaine de la Fee, or in Breton, Feunteun ar corrigan. 
' In another of Villemarque's legends, UEnfant Suppose^ 
after the egg-shell test has been used and the little corrigan- 
changeling is replaced by the real child, the latter, as though all 
the while it had been in an unconscious trance-state — which 

^ This account about corrigans, more rational than any preceding it, 
may possibly refer to a dream or trance-like state of mind on the part of 
the young girl ; and if it does, we can then compare the presence of a mortal 
at this corrigan sabbath, or even at the ordinary witches' sabbath, to the 
presence of a mortal in Fairyland. And according to popular Breton belief, 
as reliable peasants assure me, during dreams, trance, or ecstasy, the soul 
is supposed to depart from the body and actually see spirits of all kinds 
in another world, and to be then under their influence. While many details 
in the more conventional corrigan stories appear to reflect a folk-memory 
of religious dances and songs, and racial, social, and traditional usages of 
the ancient Bretons, the animistic background of them could conceivably 
have originated from psychical experiences such as this girl is supposed to 
have had. 


has a curious bearing on our Psychological Theory — stretches 
forth its arms and awakening exclaims, ' Ah ! mother, what 
a long time I have been asleep.' ^ And in Les Nains we see the 
little Duz or dwarfs inhabiting a cave and guarding treasures.^ 

In his introduction to the Barzaz Breiz, Villemarque 
describes les korrigan, whom he equates with les fees, as very 
similar to ordinary fairies. They can foretell the future, 
they know the art of war — quite like the Irish * gentry ' or 
Tuatha De Danann — they can assume any animal form, and 
are able to travel from one end of the world to another in the 
twinkling of an eye. They love feasting and music — like all 
Celtic fairy-folk ; and dance in a circle holding hands, but 
at the least noise disappear. Their favourite haunts are near 
fountains and dolmens. They are little beings not more 
than two feet high, and beautifully proportioned, with bodies 
as aerial and transparent as those of wasps. And like all 
fairy, or elvish races, and like the Breton Morgans or water- 
spirits, they are given to stealing the children of mortals. 
Professor J. Loth has called my attention to an unpublished 
Breton legend of his collection, in which there are fairy-like 
beings comparable to these described by Villemarque ; and 
he tells me, too, that throughout Brittany one finds to-day 
the counterpart of the Welsh Tylwyth Teg or * Fair Family ', 
and that both in Wales and Brittany the Tylwyth Teg are 
popularly described as little women, or maidens, like fairies 
no larger than children. 

Fairies and Dwarfs. — Where Villemarque draws a clear 
distinction is between these korrigan dindfees on the one hand, 
and the nains or dwarfs on the other. These last are what 
we have found associated or identified with corrigans in the 
Morbihan. Villemarque describes the nains as a hideous 
race of beings with dark or even black hairy bodies, with 
voices like old men, and with little sparkling black eyes. They 
are fond of playing tricks on mortals who fall into their 
power ; and are given to singing in a circular dance the week- 
day song. Very often corrigans regarded as nains, equally 
with all kinds of lutins, are believed to be evil spirits or 

* Villemarque, Barzaz Breiz (Paris, 1867), pp. 33, 35. 

P 2 


demons condemned to live here on earth in a penitential state 
for an indefinite time ; and sometimes they seem not much 
different from what Irish Celts, when talking of fairies, call 
fallen angels. Le Nain de Kerhuiton, translated from Breton 
by Professor J. Loth, in part illustrates this : — Upon seeing 
water boiling in a number of egg-shells ranged before an open 
fire, a polpegan-chdnigeling is so greatly astonished that he 
unwittingly speaks for the first time, and says, * Here I 
am almost one hundred years old, and never such a thing 
have I yet seen ! * * Ah ! son of Satan ! ' then cries out the 
mother, as she comes from her place of hiding and beats the 
polpegan — who thus by means of the egg-shell test has been 
tricked into revealing his demon nature.^ In a parallel 
story, reported by Villemarque in his Barzaz Breiz (p. 33 n.), 
a wam-changeling is equally astonished to see a similar row 
of egg-shells boiling before an open fire like so many pots of 
food, and gives himself away through the following remark : 
— ' I have seen the acorn before the oak ; I have seen the 
egg before the white chicken : I have never seen the equal 
to this.' 

Nature of the ' Corrigans \ — As to the general ideas about 
the corrigans, M. Le Scour says : — * Formerly the corrigans 
were the terror of the country-folk, especially in Finis- 
tere, in the Morbihan, and throughout the Cotes-du-Nord. 
They were believed to be souls in pain, condemned to wander 
at night in waste lands and marshes. Sometimes they were 
seen as dwarfs ; and often they were not seen at all, but 
were heard in houses making an infernal noise. Unlike the 
lavandieres de nuits (phantom washerwomen of the night), 
they were heard only in summer, never in winter.' 

The Breton Legend of the Dead 

We come now to the Breton Legend of the Dead, common 
generally to all parts of Armorica, though probably even 
more widespread in Lower Brittany than in Upper Brittany ; 
and this we call the Armorican Fairy-Faith. Even where 
the peasants have no faith in fees or fairies, and where their 

* J. Loth, in Annates de Bretagne (Rennes), x. 78-81. 


faith in corrigans is weak or almost gone, there is a strong 
conviction among them that the souls of the dead can show 
themselves to the living, a vigorous belief in apparitions, 
phantom-funerals, and various death- warnings. As Professor 
Anatole Le Braz has so well said in his introduction to La 
Legende de la Mort, ' the whole conscience of these people is 
fundamentally directed toward that which concerns death. 
And the ideas which they form of it, in spite of the strong 
Christian imprint which they have received, do not seem 
much different from those which we have pointed out 
among their pagan ancestors. For them, as for the primitive 
Celts, death is less a change of condition than a journey, 
a departure for another world.' And thus it seems that this 
most popular of the Breton folk-beliefs is genuinely Celtic 
and extremely ancient. As Renan has said, the Celtic 
people are * a race mysterious, having knowledge of the 
future and the secret of death '} And whereas in Ireland 
unusual happenings or strange accidents and death are 
attributed to fairy interference, in Brittany they are attri- 
buted to the influence of the dead. 

The Breton Celt makes no distinction between the living 
and the dead. All alike inhabit this world, the one being 
visible, the other invisible. Though seers can at all times 
behold the dead, on November Eve (La Toassaint) and on 
Christmas Eve they are most numerous and most easily 
seen ; and no peasant would think of questioning their 
existence. In Ireland and Scotland the country-folk fear 
to speak of fairies save through an euphemism, and the 
Bretons speak of the dead indirectly, and even then with 
fear and trembling. 

The following legend, which I found at Carnac, will serve 
to illustrate both the profundity of the belief in the power 
of the dead over the living in Lower Brittany, and how 
deeply the people can be stirred by the predictions of one 
who can see the dead ; and the legend is quite typical of 
those so common in Armorica : — 

Fortelling Deaths. — * Formerly there was a woman whom 

* E. Renan, Essais de morale et de critique (Paris, 1859), p. 451. 


spirits impelled to rise from her bed, it made no difference at 
what hour of the night, in order to behold funerals in the 
future. She predicted who should die, who should carry 
the corpse, who the cross, and who should follow the cortege. 
Her predictions frightened every one, and made her such 
a terror to the country that the mayor had threatened to 
take legal proceedings against her if she continued her 
practice ; but she was compelled to tell the things which 
the spirits showed her. It is about ten years since this 
woman died in the hospital at Auray.' 

Testimony of a Breton Seer ess. — There lives in the little 
hamlet of Kerlois, less than a mile from Carnac, a Breton 
seeress, a woman who since eight years of age has been 
privileged to behold the world invisible and its inhabitants, 
quite like the woman who died at Auray. She is Madame 
Eugenie Le Port, now forty-two years old, and what she tells 
of things seen in this invisible world which sun*ounds her, 
might easily be taken for Irish legends about fairies. Know- 
ing very little French, because she is thoroughly Breton, 
Madame Le Port described her visions in her own native 
tongue, and her eldest daughter acted as interpreter. I had 
known the good woman since the previous winter, and so 
we were able to converse familiarly ; and as I sat in her own 
little cottage, in company with her husband and daughters, 
and with M. Lemort, who acted as recording secretary, this 
is what she said in her clear earnest manner in answer to 
my questions : — 

' We believe that the spirits of our ancestors surround us 
and live with us. One day on a road from Carnac I encoun- 
tered a woman of Kergoellec who had been dead eight days. 
I asked her to move to one side so that I could pass, and 
she vanished. This was eleven o'clock in the morning. 
I saw her at another time in the Marsh of Breno ; I spoke, 
but she did not reply. On the route from Plouharnel (near 
Carnac) I saw in the day-time the funeral of a woman who 
did not die until fifteen days afterwards. I recognized per- 
fectly all the people who took part in it ; but the person 
with me saw nothing. Another time, near three o'clock in 


the afternoon, and eight days before her death, I saw upon 
the same route the funeral of a woman who was drowned. 
And I have seen a phantom horse going to the sabbath, and 
as if forced along against its will, for it reared and pawed the 
earth. When Pierre Rouzic of Kerlois died, I saw a light 
of all colours between heaven and earth, the very night of 
his death. I have seen a woman asleep whose spirit must 
have been free, for I saw it hovering outside her body. She 
was not awakened [at the time] for fear that the spirit would 
not find its body again.' In answer to my question as to how 
long these various visions usually lasted, Madame Le Port 
said : — ' They lasted about a quarter of an hour, or less, 
and all of them disappeared instantaneously.' As Madame 
Le Port now seemed unable to recall more of her visions, 
I finally asked her what she thought about corrigans, and 
she replied : — * I believe they exist as some special kind of 
spirits, though I have never seen any.' 

Proof that the Dead Exist. — This is what M. Jean Couton, 
an old Breton, told me at Carnac : — * I am only an old 
peasant, without instruction, without any education, but let 
me tell you what I think concerning the dead. Following 
my own idea, I believe that after death the soul always 
exists and travels among us. I repeat to you that I have 
belief that the dead are seen ; I am now going to prove this 
to you in the following story : — 

* One winter evening I was returning home from a funeral. 
I had as companion a kinswoman of the man just buried. 
We took the train and soon alighted in the station of Plou- 
harnel. We still had three kilometres to go before reaching 
home, and as it was winter, and at that epoch there was no 
stage-coach, we were obliged to travel afoot. As we were 
going along, suddenly there appeared to my companion her 
dead relative whom we had buried that day. She asked me 
if I saw anything, and since I replied to her negatively she 
said to me, " Touch me, and you will see without doubt." 
I touched her, and I saw the same as she did, the person 
just dead, whom I clearly recognized.' ^ 

* In Ireland it is commonly held that a seer beholding a fairy can make 


Phantom Washerwomen. — Concerning a very popular 
Breton belief in phantom washerwomen (les lavandieres 
de nuits ; or in Breton, cannered noz), M. Goulven Le 
Scour offers the following summary : — ' The lavandihes de 
nuits were heard less often than the corrigans, but were 
much more feared. It was usually towards midnight that 
they were heard beating their linen in front of different 
washing-places, always some way from the villages. Accord- 
ing to the old folk of the past generation, when the phantom 
washerwomen would ask a certain passer-by to help them to 
wring sheets, he could not refuse, under pain of being stopped 
and wrung like a sheet himself. And it was necessary for 
those who aided in wringing the sheets to turn in the same 
direction as the washerwomen ; for if by misfortune the 
assistant turned in an opposite direction, he had his arms 
wrung in an instant. It is believed that these phantom 
washerwomen are women condemned to wash their mortuary 
sheets during whole centuries ; but that when they find 
some mortal to wring in an opposite direction, they are 
delivered.' ^ 

Breton Animistic Beliefs. — M. Z. Le Rouzic, a Breton Celt 
who has spent most of his life studying the archaeology and 
folk-lore of the Morbihan, and who is at present Keeper of 
the Miln Museum at Carnac, summarizes for us the state 
of popular beliefs as he finds them existing in the Carnac 
country now : — ' There are few traditions concerning the 
fees in the region of Carnac ; but the belief in spirits, good 
and bad — which seems to me to be the same as the belief in 
fees — ^is general and profound, as well as the belief in the 
incarnation of spirits. And I am convinced that these behefs 
are the reminiscences of ancient Celtic beliefs held by the 
Druids and conserved by Christianity.' 

In Finistere, as purely Breton as the Morbihan, I found 
the Legend of the Dead just as widespread, and the belief 

a non-seer see it also by coming into bodily rapport with the non-seer 
(cf. p. 152). 

' It is sometimes believed that phantom washerwomen are undergoing 
penance for having wilfully brought on an abortion by their work, or else 
for having strangled their babe. 


in spirits and the apparitional return of the dead quite as 
profound ; but nothing worth recording concerning fairies. 
The stories which follow were told to me by M. Pierre Vichon, 
a pure Breton Celt, born at Lescoff, near the Point e du Raz, 
Finistere, in 1842. Peter is a genuine old * sea-dog ', having 
made the tour of the globe, and yet he has not lost the 
innate faith of his ancient ancestors in a world invisible ; for 
though he says he cannot believe all that the people in his 
part of Finistere tell about spirits and ghosts, he must have 
a belief that the dead as spirits exist and influence the 
living, because of his own personal experience — one of the 
most remarkable of its kind. Peter speaks Breton, French, 
and English fluently, and since he had an opportunity for 
the first time in seventeen months of using English, he told 
me the stories in my own native language : — 

Pierre Vichon s Strange Experience. — ' Some forty years 
ago a strange thing happened in my life. A relative of mine 
had taken service in the Austrian army, for by profession 
he was a soldier, though at first he had begun to study for 
the priesthood. During the progress of the war I had no 
news from him ; and, then one day while I was on the deck 
of a Norwegian ship just off Dover (England), my fellow 
sailors heard a noise as though of a gun being discharged, 
and the whirr of a shot. At the same moment I fell down 
on the deck as though mortally wounded, and lay in an 
unconscious state for two hours. When the news came, it 
was ascertained that at the very moment I fell and the gun- 
report was heard, my relative in Austria had been shot in 
the head and fell down dead. And he had been seen to 
throw his hands up to his head to grasp it just as I did.' 

An Apparition of the Dead. — ' I had another relative who 
died in a hospital near Christiania, Norway ; and on the 
day he died a sister of mine, then a little girl, saw his spirit 
appear here in Lescoff, and she easily recognized it ; but 
none of her girl companions with her at the time saw the 
spirit. After a few days we had the news of the death, and 
the time of it and the time of my sister's seeing the spirit 
coincided exactly.' 


In all the peninsula of which the famous and dangerous 
Pointe du Raz is the terminus, similar stories are current. 
And among the fisher-folk with whom I lived on the strange 
and historic lie de Sein, the Legend of the Dead is even more 

The Dead and Fairies Compared. — Without setting down 
here in detail numerous other death-legends which we have 
collected, we may now note how much the same are the 
powers and nature of the dead and spirits in Brittany, and 
the power and nature of the fairy races in Celtic Britain 
and Ireland. Thus the Breton dead strike down the living 
just as fairies are said to do ; the Ankou^ who is a king of 
the dead, and his subjects, like a fairy king and fairies, have 
their own particular paths or roads over which they travel 
in great sacred processions ; ^ and exactly as fairies, the 
hosts of the dead are in possession of the earth on November 
Eve, and the living are expected to prepare a feast and 
entertainment for them of curded-milk, hot pancakes, and 
cider, served on the family table covered with a fresh white 
table-cloth, and to supply music. The Breton dead come to 
enjoy this hospitality of their friends ; and as they take 
their places at the table the stools are heard to move, and 
sometimes the plates ; and the musicians who help to enter- 
tain them think that at times they feel the cold breath of the 
invisible visitors. Concerning this same feast of the dead 
(La Toussaint) Villemarque in his Barzaz Breiz (p. 507) 
records that in many parts of Brittany libations of milk 

* Every parish in the uncorrupted parts of Brittany has its own Anhou, 
who is the last man to die in the parish during the year. Each King of the 
Dead, therefore, never holds office for more than twelve months, since 
during that period he is certain to have a successor. Sometimes the A nkou 
is Death itself personified. In the Morbihan, the A nkou occasionally may 
be seen as an apparition entering a house where a death is about to occur ; 
though more commonly he is never seen, his knocking only is heard, which 
is the rule in Finistere. In Welsh mythology, Gwynn ab Nudd, king of 
the world of the dead, is represented as playing a role parallel to that 
of the Breton Ankou, when he goes forth with his fierce hades-hounds hunting 
the souls of the dying. (Cf. Rhys, Arth. Leg., p. 155.) 

* Cf. A. Le Braz, La LJgende de la Mort ; Introduction by L. Marillier 
(Paris, 1893), pp. 31, 40. 


are poured over or near ancestral tombs — just as in Ireland 
and Scotland libations of milk are poured to fairies. And 
the people of Armorica at other times than November Eve 
remember the dead very appropriately, as in Ireland the 
Irish remember fairies. The Breton peasant thinks of the 
dead as frequently as the Irishman thinks of fairies. One day 
while I was walking toward Carnac there was told to me in 
the most ordinary manner a story about a dead man who 
used to be seen going along the very road I was on. He 
quite often went to the church in Carnac seeking prayers for 
his soul. And almost every man or woman one meets in 
rural Lower Brittany can tell many similar stories. If 
a mortal should happen to meet one of the dead in Brittany 
and be induced to eat food which the dead sometimes offer, 
he will never be able to return among the living,^ for the 
effect would be the same as eating fairy-food. Like ghosts 
and fairies in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, in Brittany the 
dead guard hidden treasure. It is after sunset that the dead 
have most power to strike down the living,^ and to take them 
just as fairies do. A natural phenomenon, a malady, a death, 
or a tempest may be the work of a spirit in Brittany,^ and 
in Ireland the work of a fairy. The Breton dead, like the 
Scotch fairies described in Kirk's Secret Commonwealth, are 
capable of making themselves visible or invisible to mortals, 
at will.^ Their bodies — for they have bodies — are material,^ 
being composed of matter in a state unknown to us ; and the 
bodies of daemons as described by the Ancients are made of 
congealed air. The dead in Brittany have forms more slender 
and smaller in stature than those of the living ; ^ and herein 
we find one of the factors which supporters of the Pygmy 
Theory would emphasize, but it is thoroughly psychical. 
Old Breton farmers after death return to their farms, as 
though come from Fairyland ; and sometimes they even take 
a turn at the ploughing.^ As in Ireland, so in Brittany, the 
day belongs to the living, and the night, when a mortal is 
safer indoors than out, to spirits and the dead.^ The Bretons 

* Cf. Le Braz, La Ligende de la Mori ; Introduction by Marillier, pp. 47, 
46, 7-8, 40, 45, 46. 


take great care not to counterfeit the dead nor to speak 
slightingly of them,^ for, like fairies, they know all that is 
done by mortals, and can hear all that is said about them, 
and can take revenge. Just as in the case of all fairies and 
goblins, the dead disappear at first cock-crow.^ The world 
of the dead, like the land of Faerie or the Otherworld, may be 
underground, in the air, in a hill or mountain like a fairy 
palace, under a river or sea, and even on an island out amid 
the ocean.2 As other Celts do against evil spirits and fairies, 
the Breton peasants use magic against evil souls of the 
dead,^ and the priests use exorcisms. The Breton realm of 
the dead equally with the Irish Fairyland is an invisible 
world peopled by other kinds of spirits besides disembodied 
mortals and fairies.* The dead haunt houses just as Robin 
Good-fellows and brownies, or pixies and goblins, generally 
do. The dead are fond of frequenting cross-roads, and so 
are all sorts of fairies. In Brittany one must always guard 
against the evil dead, in Cornwall against pixies, in other 
Celtic lands against different kinds of fairies. In Ireland 
and Scotland there is the banshee, in Wales the death- 
candle, in Brittany the Ankou or king of the dead, to foretell 
a death. And as the banshee wails before the ancestral 
mansion, so the Ankou sounds its doleful cry before the door 
of the one it calls.* There seems not to be a family in the 
Carnac region of the Morbihan without some tradition of 
a warning coming before the death of one of its members. 
In Ireland only certain families have a banshee, but in 
Brittany all families. Professor Le Braz has devoted a large 
part of his work on La Legende de la Mort to these Breton 
death- warnings or inter signes. They may be shades of the 
dead under many aspects — ghostly hands, or ghosts of 
inanimate objects. They may come by the fall of objects 
without known cause ; by a magpie resting on a roof — just 
as in Ireland ; by the crowing of cocks, and the howling of 

' Cf. Le Braz, La Legende de la Mort ; Introduction by Marillier, p. 43. 
" lb. ; Notes by G. Dottin (Paris, 1902), p. 44. 
^ lb. ; Introduction by Marillier, pp. 19, 23, 68. 
* Cf. ib. ; Introduction by Marillier, pp. 53 ff., 68. 


dogs at night. They may be death-candles or torches, 
dreams, pecuHar bodily sensations, images in water, phantom 
funerals, and death-chariots or death-coaches as in Wales. 

The Bretons may be said to have a Death-Faith, whereas 
the other Celts have a Fairy- Faith, and both are a real 
folk-religion innate in the Celtic nature, and thus quite as 
influential as Christianity. Should Christianity in some way 
suddenly be swept away from the Celt he would still be 
religious, for it is his nature to be so. And as Professor 
Le Braz has suggested to me, Carnac with its strange monu- 
ments of an unknown people and time, and wrapped in its 
air of mystery and silence, is a veritable Land of the Dead. 
I, too, have felt that there are strange, vague, indefinable in- 
fluences at work at Carnac at all times of the day and night, 
very similar to those which I have felt in the most fairy- 
haunted regions of Ireland. We might say that all of 
Brittany is a Land of the Dead, and ancient Carnac its 
Centre, just as Ireland is Fairyland, with its Centre at 
ancient Tar a. 


We can very appropriately conclude our inquiry about 
Brittany with a very beautiful description of a Veillee in 
Lower Brittany, written down in French for our special use 
by the Breton poet, M. Le Scour, of Carnac, and here 
translated. M. Le Scour draws the whole picture from 
life, and from his own intimate experience. It will serve to 
give us some insight into the natural literary ability of the 
Breton Celts, to illustrate their love of tales dealing with 
the marvellous and the supernormal, and is especially valu- 
able for showing the social environment amidst which the 
Fairy-Faith of Lower Brittany lives and flourishes, isolated 
from foreign interference : — 

A ' Veillee ' ^ in Lower Brittany. — * The wind was blowing 

^ A Breton night's entertainment held in a peasant's cottage, stable, or 
other warm outhouse. In parts of the Morbihan and of Finistere where 
the old Celtic life has escaped modern influences, almost every winter 
night the Breton Celts, like their cousins in very isolated parts of West 


from the east, and in the intermittent moonlight the roof of 
the thatched cottage already gleamed with a thin covering 
of snow which had fallen since sunset. Each comer reached 
on the run the comfortable bakehouse, wherein Alain Corre 
was at work kneading his batch of barley bread ; and the 
father Le Scour was never the last to arrive, because he 
liked to get the best seat in front of the bake-oven. 

' Victor had promised us for that night a pretty story 
which no person had ever heard before. I was not more 
than fourteen years old then, but like all the neighbours 
I hurried to get a place in order to hear Victor. My mother 
was already there, making her distaff whirr between her two 
lingers as she sat in the light of a rosin candle, and my 
brother Yvon was finishing a wooden butter-spoon. Every 
few minutes I and my little cousin went out to see if it was 
still snowing, and if Victor had arrived. 

* At last Victor entered, and everybody applauded, the 
young girls lengthening out their distaffs to do him rever- 
ence. Then when silence was restored, after some of the 
older men had several times shouted out, " Let us com- 
mence ; hold your tongues," Victor began his story as 
follows : — 

* " Formerly, in the village of Kastel-Laer, Ploune venter 
(Finistere) , there were two neighbours ; the one was Paol 
al Ludu and the other Yon Rustik. Paol al Ludu was 
a good-for-nothing sort of fellow ; he gained his living 
easily, by cheating everybody and by robbing his neigh- 
bours ; and being always well dressed he was much envied 
by his poorer acquaintances. Yon Rustik, on the contrary, 
was a poor, infirm, and honest man, always seeking to do 
good, but not being able to work, had to beg. 

* " One evening our two men were disputing. Paol al Ludu 
treated Yon shamefully, telling him that it would be absurd 
to think an old lame man such as he was could ever get to 
Paris ; * But I,' added Paol, * am going to see the capital 
and amuse myself like a rich bourgeois. At this. Yon offered 

Ireland and in the Western Hebrides, find their chief enjoyment in story- 
telling festivals, some of which I have been privileged to attend. 


to bet with Paol that in spite of infirmities he would also 
go to Paris ; and being an honest man he placed his trust 
in God. The wager was mutually agreed to, and our two 
men set out for Paris by different routes. 

* " Paol al Ludu, who had no infirmities, arrived at Paris 
within three weeks. He followed the career of a thief, and 
deceived everybody ; and as he was well dressed, people 
had confidence in him. The poor Yon Rustik, on the con- 
trary, did not travel rapidly. He was obliged to beg his 
way, and being meanly dressed was compelled to sleep 
outdoors when he could not find a stable. At the end of 
a month he arrived in a big forest in the region of Versailles, 
and having no other shelter for the night chose a great oak 
tree which was hollowed by the centuries and lined with 
fungi within. In front of this ancient oak there was a foun- 
tain which must have been miraculous, for it flowed from 
east to west, and Yon had closely observed it. 

' " Towards midnight Yon was awakened by a terrible 
uproar ; there were a hundred corrigans dancing round 
the fountain. He overheard one of them say to the others : 
* I have news to report to you ; I have cast an evil spell 
upon the daughter of the King, and no mortal will ever be 
able to cure her, and yet in order to cure her nothing more 
would be needed than a drop of water from this fountain.* 
The corrigan who thus spoke was upon two sticks ^ (crippled), 
and commanded all the others. The beggar having under- 
stood the conversation, awaited impatiently the departure 
of the corrigans. When they were gone, he took a little 
water from the fountain in a bottle, and hurried on to Paris, 
where he arrived one fine morning. 

' " In the house where Yon stopped to eat his crust of dry 
bread he heard it reported that the daughter of the King 
was very ill, and that the wisest doctors in France had been 
sent for. Three days later. Yon Rustik presented himself at 
the palace, and asked audience with the King, but as he was 
so shabbily dressed the attendants did not wish to let him 

* The word in the MS. is hoiteux, and in relation to a devil or demon 
this seems to be the proper rendering. 


enter. When he strongly insisted, they finally prevailed 
upon the King to receive him ; and then Yon told the King 
that he had come to cure the princess. Thereupon the King 
caused Yon to be fittingly dressed and presented before the 
sick-bed ; and Yon drew forth his bottle of water, and, at 
his request, the princess drank it to the last drop. Suddenly 
she began to laugh with joy, and throwing her arms about 
the neck of the beggar thanked him : she was radically 
cured. At once the King gave orders that his golden coach 
of state be made ready ; and placing the princess and the 
beggar on one seat, made a tour throughout all the most 
beautiful streets of Paris. Never before were such crowds 
seen in Paris, for the proclamation had gone forth that the 
one who had made the miraculous cure was a beggar. 

' " Paol al Ludu, who was still in Paris, pressed forward 
to see the royal coach pass, and when he saw who sat next 
to the princess he was beside himself with rage. But before 
the day was over he discovered Yon in the great hotel of 
the city, and asked him how it was that he had been able 
to effect the cure ; and Yon replied to his old rival that it 
was with the water of a miraculous fountain, and relating 
everything which had passed, explained to him in what 
place the hollow oak and the fountain were to be found. 

* " Paol did not wait even that night, but set off at once 
to find the miraculous fountain. When he finally found it 
the hour was almost midnight, and so he hid himself in the 
hollow of the oak, hoping to overhear some mysterious 
revelation. Midnight had hardly come when a frightful 
uproar commenced : this time the crippled corrigan chief 
was swearing like a demon, and he cried to the others, ' The 
daughter of the King has been cured by a beggar ! He 
must have overheard us by hiding in the hollow of that 
d — d old oak. Quick ! let fire be put in it, for it has brought 
us misfortune.* 

' " In less than a minute, the trunk of the oak was in 
flames ; and there were heard the cries of anguish of Paol 
al Ludu and the gnashing of his teeth, as he fought against 
death. Thus the evil and dishonest man ended his life. 


while Yon Rustik received a pension of twenty thousand 
francs, and was able to live happy for many years, and to 
give alms to the poor." ' 

Here M. Le Scour ends his narrative, leaving the reader 
to imagine the enthusiastic applause and fond embraces 
bestowed upon Victor for this most marvellous story, by 
the happy gathering of country-folk in that cosy warm 
bakehouse in Lower Brittany, while without the cold east 
wind of winter was whirling into every nook and corner the 
falling flakes of snow. 

The evidence from Ireland, Scotland, Isle of Man, Wales, 
Cornwall, and Brittany, which the living Celtic Fairy-Faith 
offers, has now been heard ; and, as was stated at the 
beginning of the inquiry, apparently most of it can only be 
interpreted as belonging to a world-wide doctrine of souls. 
But before this decision can be arrived at safely, all the 
evidence should be carefully estimated according to anthropo- 
logical and psychological methods ; and this we shall proceed 
to do in the following chapter, before passing to Section II 
of our study. 







Anthropology is concerned with man and what is in man — humani 
nihil a se alienum putai. — Andrew Lang. 

The Celtic Fairy-Faith as part of a World-wide Animism — Shaping 
Influence of Social Psychology — Smallness of Elvish Spirits and Fairies, 
according to Ethnology, Animism, and Occult Sciences — The Changeling 
Belief and its explanation according to the Kidnap, Human-Sacrifice, 
Soul-Wandering, and Demon-Possession Theory — Ancient and Modern 
Magic and Witchcraft shown to be based on definite psychological laws — 
Exorcisms — Taboos, of Name, Food, Iron, Place — Taboos among Ancient 
Celts — Food-Sacrifice — Legend of the Dead — Conclusion : The back- 
ground of the modern belief in Fairies is animistic. 

The Celtic Fairy-Faith as Part of a World-wide 


The modern belief in fairies, with which until now we 
have been specifically concerned, is Celtic only in so far as 
it reflects Celtic traditions and customs, Celtic myth and 
religion, and Celtic social and environmental conditions. 
Otherwise, as will be shown throughout this and succeeding 
chapters, it is in essence a part of a world-wide animism, 
which forms the background of all religions in whatever 
stage of culture religions exist or to which they have attained 
by evolution, from the barbarism of the Congo black man 
to the civilization of the Archbishop of Canterbury ; and as 
fcir back as we can go into human origins there is some 
corresponding behef in a fairy or spirit realm, as there is 
to-day among contemporary civilized and uncivilized races 
of all countries. We may therefore very profitably begin 


our examination of the living Fairy-Faith of the Celts 
by comparing it with a few examples, taken almost at 
random, from the animistic beliefs current among non-Celtic 

To the Arunta tribes of Central Australia, furthest re- 
moved in space from the Celts and hence least likely to have 
been influenced by them, let us go first, in order to examine 
their doctrine of ancestral Alcheringa beings and of the 
Iruntarinia, which offers an almost complete parallel to the 
Celtic belief in fairies. These Alcheringa beings and Irun- 
tarinia — to ignore the secondary differences between the 
two — are a spirit race inhabiting an invisible or fairy world. 
Only certain persons, medicine-men and seers, can see them ; 
and these describe them as thin and shadowy, and, like the 
Irish Sidhe, as always youthful in appearance. Precisely 
like their Celtic counterparts in general, these Australian 
spirits are believed to haunt inanimate objects such as stones 
and trees ; or to frequent totem centres, as in Ireland 
demons (daemons) are believed to frequent certain places 
known to have been anciently dedicated to the religious 
rites of the pre-Christian Celts ; and, quite after the manner 
of the Breton dead and of most fairies^ they are said to 
control human affairs and natural phenomena. All the 
Arunta invariably regard themselves as incarnations or 
reincarnations of these ancestral spirit-beings ; and, in 
accordance with evidence to be set forth in our seventh 
chapter, ancient and modern Celts have likewise regarded 
themselves as incarnations or reincarnations of ancestors 
and of fairy beings. Also the Arunta think of the Alcheringa 
beings exactly as Celts think of fairies : as real invisible 
entities who must be propitiated if men wish to secure their 
goodwill ; and as beneficent and protecting beings when not 
offended, who may attach themselves to individuals as 
guardian spirits.^ 

Among the Melanesian peoples there is an equally firm 
faith in spiritual beings, which they call Vui and Wui, and 

* B. Spencer and F. T. Gillen, Nat. Tribes of Cent. Aust. (London, 1899), 
chapters xi, xv. 



these beings have very many of the chief attributes of the 
Alcheringa beings.^ 

In Africa, the Amatongo, or Ahapansi of Amazulu behef, 
have essentially the same motives for action toward men 
and women, and exhibit the same powers, as the Scotch 
and Irish peasants assign to the 'good people'. They take 
the living through death ; and people so taken appear after- 
wards as apparitions, having become Amatongo?' 

In the New World, we find in the North American Red 
Men a race as much given as the Celts are to a behef in 
various spirits like fairies. They believe that there are 
spirits in lakes, in rivers and in waterfalls, in rocks and 
trees, in the earth and in the air ; and that these beings 
produce storms, droughts, good and bad harvests, abun- 
dance and scarcity of game, disease, and the varying fortunes 
of men . Mr. Leland , who has carefully studied these American 
beliefs, says that the Un a games-suk, or little spirits inhabit- 
ing rocks and streams, play a much more influential part in 
the social and religious life of the North American Red Men 
than elves or fairies ever did among the Aryans.^ 

In Asia there is the well-known and elaborate animistic 
creed of the Chinese and of the Japanese, to be in part 
illustrated in subsequent sections. In popular Indian belief, 
as found in the Panjab, there is no essential difference 
between various orders of beings endowed with immortality, 
such as ghosts and spirits on the one hand, and gods, demi- 
gods, and warriors on the other ; for whether in bodies in 
this world or out of bodies in the invisible world, they equally 
live and act — quite as fairies do.* Throughout the Malay 
Peninsula, belief in many orders of good and bad spirits, in 
demon-possession, in exorcism, and in the power of black 
magicians is very common.^ But in the Phi races of Siam 

* R. H. Codrington, Journ, Anthrop. Inst. x. 261 ; The Melanestans 
(Oxford, 1 891), pp. 123, 151, &c. ; also cf. F. W. Christian, The Cafoline 
Islands (London, 1899), pp. 281 ff., &c. 

* H. Callaway, The Religious System of the Amazulu (London, 1868), 
pp. 226-7. * C. G. Leland, Memoirs (London, 1893), i. 34. 

* R. C. Temple, Legends of the Panjah, in Folk-Lore ^ x. 395. 
' W. W. Skeat, Malay Magic (London, 1900), passim. 


we discover what is probably the most important and com- 
plete parallel to the Celtic Fairy- Faith existing in Asia. 

According to the Siamese folk-belief, all the stars and 
various planets, as well as the ethereal spaces, are the \ 
dwelling-places of the Thevadas, gods and goddesses of the 
old pre-Buddhist mythology, who correspond pretty closely 
to the Tuatha De Danann of Irish mythology ; and this 
world itself is peopled by legions of minor deities called Phi, 
who include all the various orders of good and bad spirits 
continually influencing mankind. Some of these Phi live 
in forests, in trees, in open spaces ; and watercourses are 
full of them. Others inhabit mountains and high places. 
A particular order who haunt the sacred trees surrounding 
the Buddhist temples are known as Phi nang mai ; and 
since nang is the word for female, and mai for tree, they are 
comparable to tree-dwelling fairies, or Greek wood-nymphs. 
Still another order called Chao phtim phi (gods of the earth) 
are like house-frequenting brownies, fairies, and pixies, or " 
like certain orders of corrigans who haunt barns, stables, and 
dwellings ; and in many curious details these Chao phum 
phi correspond to the Penates of ancient Rome. Not only 
is the worship of this order of Phi widespread in Siam, but 
to every other order of Phi altars are erected and pro- 
pitiatory offerings made by all classes of the Siamese people.^ 

Before passing westwards to Europe, in completion of our 
rapid folk-lore tour of the world, we may observe that the 
Persians, even those who are well educated, have a firm 
belief in jinns and afreets, different orders of good and bad 
spirits with all the chief characteristics of fairies. 2 And 
modern Arabs and Egyptians and Egyptian Turks hold 
similar animistic beliefs.^ 

* Hardouin, Traditions et superstitions siamoises, in Rev. Trad. Pop., v. 

^ Ella G. Sykes, Persian Folklore, in Folk-Lore, xii. 263. 

' I am directly indebted for this information to a friend who is a member 
of Lincoln College, Oxford,* Mr. Mohammed Said Loutfy, of Barkein, 
Lower Egypt. Mr. Loutfy has come into frequent and very intimate 
contact with these animistic beliefs in his country, and he tells me that 
they are common to all classes of almost all races in modern Egypt. The 
common Egyptian spellings are afreet, in the singular, and afaareet in the 


In Europe, the Greek peasant as firmly believes in nymphs 
or nereids as the Celtic peasant believes in fairies ; and 
nymphs, nereids, and fairies alike are often the survivals 
of an ancient mythology. Mr. J. C. Lawson, who has very 
carefully investigated the folk-lore of modern Greece, says : 
' The nereids are conceived as women half-divine yet not 
immortal, always young, always beautiful, capricious at best, 
and at their worst cruel. Their presence is suspected every- 
where. I myself had a nereid pointed out to me by my 
guide, and there certainly was the semblance of a female 
figure draped in white, and tall beyond human stature, 
flitting in the dusk between the gnarled and twisted boles 
of an old olive-yard. What the apparition was, I had no 
leisure to investigate ; for my guide with many signs of the 
cross and muttered invocations of the Virgin urged my 
mule to perilous haste along the rough mountain path.' 
Like Celtic fairies, these Greek nereids have their queens ; 
they dance all night, disappearing at cock-crow ; they can 
cast spells on animals or maladies on men and women ; they 
can shift their shape ; they take children in death and make 
changelings ; and they fall in love with young men.^ 

Among the Roumain peoples the widespread belief in the 
lele shows in other ways equally marked parallels with the 
Fairy-Faith of the Celts. These lele wait at cross-roads and 
near dwellings, or at village fountains or in fields and woods, 
where they can best cast on men and women various maladies. 
Sometimes they fall in love with beautiful young men and 
women, and have on such occasions even been controlled by 
their mortal lovers. They are extremely fond of music and 
dancing, and many a shepherd with his pipes has been 
favoured by them, though they have their own music and 
songs too. The Albanian peoples have evil fairies, no taller 
than children twelve years old, called in Modern Greek ra 

plural, for spiritual beings, who are usually described by percipients as of 
pygmy stature, but as being able to assume various sizes and shapes. The 
djinns, on the contrary, are described as tall spiritual beings possessing 
great power. 

^ J. C. Lawson, Modern Greek Folk-Lore (Cambridge, 1910), pp. 13 1-7, 
139-46, 163. 



(^(OTLKa, ' those without/ who correspond to the lele. Young 
people who have been enticed to enter their round dance 
afterwards waste away and die, apparently becoming one of 
* those without *. These Albanian spirits, like the ' good 
people ' and the Breton dead, have their own particular paths 
and retreats, and whoever violates these is struck and falls 
ill.^ These parallels from Roumain lands are probably due 
to the close Aryan relationship between the Roumains, 
the Greeks, and the Celts. The lele seem nothing more 
than the nymphs and nereids of classical antiquity trans- 
formed under Christian influence into beings who contra- 
dict their original good character, as in Celtic lands the 
fairy-folk have likewise come to be fallen angels and evil 

There is an even closer relationship between the Italian 
and Celtic fairies. For example, among the Etruscan- 
Roman people there are now flourishing animistic beliefs 
almost identical in all details with the Fairy-Faith of the 
Celts.2 In a very valuable study on the Neo-Latin Fay, 
Mr. H. C. Coote writes : — ' Who were the Fays — the fate of 
later Italy, the f^s of mediaeval France ? For it is perfectly 
clear that the fatua, fata, and fee are all one and the same 
word.' And he proceeds to show that the race of immortal 
damsels whom the old natives of Italy called Fatuae gave 
origin to all the family of fees as these appear in Latin 
countries, and that the Italians recognized in the Greek 
nymphs their own Fatuae.^ 

It is quite evident that we have here discovered in Italy, 
as we discovered in Greece and Roumain lands, fairies very 
Celtic in character ; and should further examination be 
made of modern European folk-lore yet other similar fairies 
would be found, such, for example, as the elves of Germany 
and of Scandinavia, or as the servans of the Swiss peasant. 
And in all cases, whether the beliefs examined be Celtic or 

^ L. Sainean, Les Fees m^chantes d'apres les croyances du peuple roumain, 
in Melusine, x. 217-26, 243-54. 

* Cf. C. G. Leland, Etruscan Roman Remains in Pop. Trad. (London, 
1892), pp. 162, 165, 223, &c. 

' H. C. Coote, The Neo-Latin Fay, in Folk-Lore Record, ii. 1-18. ^ 


non-Celtic, Aryan or non-Aryan, from Australia, Polynesia, 
Africa, America, Asia, or Europe, they are in essence ani- 
mistically the same, as later sections in this chapter will 
make clear. But while the parallelism of these beliefs is 
indicated it is, of course, not meant for a moment that in 
all of the cases or in any one of the cases the specific differ- 
ences are not considerable. The ground of comparison con- 
sists simply in those generic characteristics which these 
fairy-faiths, as they may be called, invariably display — 
characteristics which we have good precedent for summing 
up in the single adjective animistic. 

Shaping Influence of Social Psychology 

For the term animism we have to thank Dr. E. B. Tylor, 
whose Primitive Culture, in which the animistic theory is 
developed, may almost be said to mark the beginning of 
scientific anthropology. In this work, however, there is 
a decided tendency (which indeed displays itself in most of 
the leading anthropological works, as, for example, in those 
by Dr. Frazer) to regard men, or at any rate primitive men, 
as having a mind absolutely homogeneous, and therefore as 
thinking, feeling, and acting in the same way under all con- 
ditions alike. But a decided change is beginning to manifest 
itself in the interpretation of the customs and beliefs of the 
ruder races. It is assumed as a working principle that each 
ethnic group has or tends to have an individuality of its 
own, and, moreover, that the members of such a group 
think, feel, and act primarily as the representatives, so to 
speak, of that ethnic individuality in which they live, move, 
and have their being. That is to say, a social as contrasted 
with an individual psychology must, it is held, pronounce 
both the first and last word regarding all matters of mytho- 
logy, religion, and art in its numerous forms. The reason is 
that these are social products, and as such are to be under- 
stood only in the light of the laws governing the workings of 
the collective mind of any particular ethnic group. Such a 
method is, for instance, employed in Mr. William McDougall's 
Social Psychology, in Mr. R. R. Marett's Threshold of Religion, 


and in many anthropological articles to be found in L'Annee 

If, therefore, we hold by this new and fruitful method of 
social psychology we must be prepared to treat the Fairy- 
Faith of the Celtic peoples also in and for itself, as expres- 
sive of an individuality more or less unique. It might, 
indeed, be objected that these peoples are not a single social 
group, but rather a number of such groups, and this is, in 
a way, true. Nevertheless their folk-lore displays such 
remarkable homogeneity, from whatever quarter of the Celtic 
world it be derived, that it seems the soundest method to 
treat them as one people for all the purposes of the student 
of sociology, mythology, and religion. Granting, then, such 
a unity in the beliefs of the pan-Celtic race, we are finally 
obliged to distinguish as it were two aspects thereof. 

On the one hand there is shown, even in the mere handful 
of non-Celtic parallels, which for reasons of space we have 
been content to cite, as well as in their Celtic equivalents, 
a generic element common to all peoples living under 
primitive conditions of society. It is emphatically a social 
element, but at the same time one which any primitive 
society is bound to display. On the other hand, in a second 
aspect, the Celtic beliefs show of themselves a character 
which is wholly Celtic : in the Fairy-Faith, which is generic- 
ally animistic, we find reflected all sorts of specific charac- 
teristics of the Celtic peoples — their patriotism, their peculiar 
type of imagination, their costumes, amusements, household 
life, and social and religious customs generally. With this 
fact in mind, we may proceed to examine certain of the 
more specialized aspects of the Fairy-Faith, as manifested 
both among Celts and elsewhere. 

The Smallness of Elvish Spirits and Fairies 

Ethnological or Pygmy Theory 

In any anthropological estimate of the Fairy-Faith, the 
pygmy stature so commonly attributed to various orders 
of Celtic and of non-Celtic fairies should be considered. 


Various scholarly champions of the Pygmy Theory have 
attempted to explain this smallness of fairies by means of 
the hypothesis that the belief in such fairies is due wholly 
to a folk-memory of smaU-statured pre-Celtic races ; ^ and 

* We cannot here attempt to present, even in outline, all the complex 
ethnological arguments for and against the existence in prehistoric times 
of European pygmy races. Attention ought, however, to be called to the 
remarkable finds recently made in the Grotte des Enfants, at Mentone, 
France. A certain number of well-preserved skeletons of probably the 
earliest men who dwelt on the present land surface of Europe, which were 
found there, suggest that different racial stocks, possibly in succession, 
have preceded the Aryan stock. The first race, as indicated by two small 
negroid-looking skeletons of a woman, 1,580 mm. (62-21 inches), and of 
a boy 1,540 mm. (60.63 inches) in height, found in the lowest part of the 
Grotte, was probably Ethiopian. The succeeding race was probably 
Mongolian, judging from other remains found in another part of the same 
Grotte, and especially from the Chancelade skeleton with its distinctly 
Eskimo appearance, only 1,500 mm. (59-06 inches) high, discovered near 
Perigneux, France. The race succeeding this one was possibly the one out of 
which our own Aryan race evolved. In relation to the Pygmy Theory these 
recent finds are of the utmost significance. They confirm Dr. Windle's earlier 
conclusion, that, contrary to the argument advanced to support the Pygmy 
Theory, the neolithic races of Central Europe were not true pygmies — 
a people whose average stature does not exceed four feet nine inches (cf. 
B. C. A. Windle, Tyson's Pygmies of the Ancients, London, 1894, Intro- 
duction). And, furthermore, these finds show, as far as any available 
ethnological data can, that there are no good reasons for believing that 
European and, therefore, Celtic lands were once dominated by pygmies 
even in epochs so remote that we can only calculate them in tens of thou- 
sands of years. Nevertheless, it is very highly probable that a folk-memory 
of Lappish, Pictish, or other small but not true pygmy races, has super- 
ficially coloured the modern fairy traditions of Northern Scotland, of the 
Western Hebrides (where what may prove to have been Lapps' or Picts* 
houses undoubtedly remain), of Northern Ireland, of the Isle of Man, and 
slightly, if indeed at all, the fairy traditions of other parts of the Celtic world 
(cf. David MacRitchie, The Testimony of Tradition, London, 1890 ; and his 
criticism of our own Psychological Theory, in the Celtic Review, October 
1909 and January 19 10, entitled respectively, A New Solution of the Fairy 
Problem, and Druids and Mound-Dwellers). 

Again, the very small flint implements frequently found in Celtic lands 
and elsewhere have perhaps very reasonably been attributed to a long- 
forgotten pygmy race ; though we must bear in mind in this connexion 
that it would be very unwise to conclude definitely that no race save 
a smaU-statured race could have made and used such implements : American 
Red Men were, when discovered by Europeans, and still are, making and 
using the tiniest of arrow-heads, precisely the same in size and design as 
those found in Celtic lands and attributed to pygmies. The use of small 
flint implements for special purposes, e.g. arrows for shooting small game 


they add that these races, having dwelt in caverns like the 
prehistoric Cave Men, and in undergiound houses like those 
of Lapps or Eskimos, gave rise to the belief in a fairy world 
existing in caverns and under hills or mountains. When 
analysed, our evidence shows that in the majority of cases 
witnesses have regarded fairies either as non-human nature- 
spirits or else as spirits of the dead ; that in a comparatively 
limited number of cases they have regarded them as the 
souls of prehistoric races ; and that occasionally they have 
regarded the belief in them as due to a folk-memory of such 
races. It follows, then, from such an analysis of evidence, 
that the Pygmy Theory probably does explain some ethno- 
logical elements which have come to be almost inseparably 
interwoven with the essentially animistic fabric of the 
primitive Fairy-Faith. But though the theory may so 
account for such ethnological elements, it disregards the 
animism that has made such interweaving possible ; and, on 
the whole, we are inclined to accept Mr. Jenner's view of 
the theory (see p. 169). Since the Pygmy Theory thus fails 
entirely to provide a basis for what is by far the most 
important part of the Fairy-Faith, a more adequate theory 

is required. 

Animistic Theory 

The testimony of Celtic literature goes to show that 
leprechauns and similar dwarfish beings are not due to 
a folk-memory of a real pygmy race, that they are spirits 
like elves, and that the folk-memory of a Lappish-like people 
(who may have been Picts) evidently was confused with 
them, so as to result in their being anthropomorphosed. 
Thus, in Fionn's Ransom, there is reference to an under- 
sized apparently Lappish-like man, who may be a Pict ; 
and as Campbell, who records the ancient tale, has observed, 
there are many similar traditional Highland tales about 
little men or even about true dwarfs who are good bowmen ; * 

like birds, for spearing fish, and for use in warfare as poisoned arrows, 
seems to have been common to most primitive peoples of normal stature. 
Contemporary pygmy races, far removed from Celtic lands, are also using 
them, and no doubt their prehistoric ancestors used them likewise. 

* J. G. Campbell, The Fians (London, 1891), p. 239. An Irish dwarf 


but it is very certain that such tales have often blended with 
other tales, in which supernatural figures like fairies play 
a r6le ; and, apparently, the former kind of tales are much 
more historical and modern in their origin, while the latter 
are more mythological and extremely archaic. This blend- 
ing of the natural or ethnological and the supernatural — in 
quite the same manner as in the modern Fairy-Faith — is 
clearly seen in another of Campbell's collected tales. The 

V Lad with the Skin Coverings} which in essence is an other- 
world tale : * a little thickset man in a russet coat,' who is 
a magician, but who otherwise seems to be a genuine Lapp 
dressed in furs, is introduced into a story where real fairy- 
like beings play the chief parts. Again, in Irish literature, 

. we read of a loch luchra or * lake of the pygmies \^ Light 
is thrown upon this reference by what is recorded about the 
leprechauns and Fergus : — While asleep on the seashore one 
day, Fergus was about to be carried off by the luchorpdin ; 
* whereat he awoke and caught three of them, to wit, one 
in each of his two hands, and one on his breast. " Life for 
life" (i.e. protection), say they. "Let my three wishes 
(i.e. choices) be given," says Fergus. "Thou shalt have," 
says the dwarf, " save that which is impossible for us." 
Fergus requested of him knowledge of passing under loughs 
and linns and seas. " Thou shalt have," says the dwarf, 
" save one which I forbid to thee : thou shalt not go under 
Lough Rudraide [which] is in thine own country." There- 
after the luchuirp (little bodies) put herbs into his ears, and 
he used to go with them under seas. Others say the dwarf 
gave his cloak to him, and that Fergus used to put it on 
his head and thus go under seas.'^ In an etymological 
comment on this passage. Sir John Rh^'S says : — ' The words 
luchuirp and luchorpdin [Anglo-Irish leprechaun] appear to 
mean literally " small bodies ", and the word here rendered 

is minutely described in Silva Gadelica (ii. Ii6), O'Grady's translation. 
Again, in Malory's Morte D' Arthur (B. XII. cc. i-ii) a dwarf is mentioned. 

^ Campbell, The Finns, p. 265. 

' S. H. O'Grady, Silva Gadelica (London, 1892), ii. 199. 

' Commentary on the Senchas Mar, i. 70-1, Stokes's translation, in Rev. 
Celt., i. 256-7. 


dwarf is in the Irish abac, the etymological equivalent of the 
Welsh avanc, the name by which certain water inhabitants 
of a mythic nature went in Welsh. . . .' ^ 

Besides what we find in the recorded Fairy-Faith, there 
are very many parallel traditions, both Celtic and non- 
Celtic, about various classes of spirits, like leprechauns or 
other small elvish beings, which Dr. Tylor has called nature- 
spirits ; 2 and apparently all of these can best be accounted 
for by means of the animistic hypothesis. For example, in 
North America (as in Celtic lands) there is no proof of there 
ever having been an actual dwarf race, but Lewis and Clark, 
in their Travels to the Source of the Missouri River, found 
among the Sioux a tradition that a hill near the Whitestone 
River, which the Red Men called the * Mountain of Little 
People ' or * Little Spirits ', was inhabited by pygmy demons 
in human form, about eighteen inches tall, armed with sharp 
arrows, and ever on the alert to kill mortals who should dare 
to invade their domain. So afraid were all the tribes of 
Red Men who lived near the mountain of these little spirits 
that no one of them could be induced to visit it.^ And we 
may compare this American spirit-haunted hill with similar 
natural hills in Scotland said to be fairy knolls : one near 
the turning of a road from Reay Wick to Safester, Isle of 
Unst ; ^ one the well-known fairy-haunted Tomnahurich, 
near Inverness ; ^ and a third, the hill at Aberfoyle on which 
the * people of peace ' took the Rev. Robert Kirk when he pro- 
faned it by walking on it ; or we may equate the American 
hill with the fairy-haunted Slieve GuUion and Ben Bulbin 
in Ireland. 

The Iroquois had a belief that they could summon dwarfs, 
who were similar nature-spirits, by knocking on a certain 

* Sir John Rhys, Hibbert Lectures (London, 1888), p. 592. Dwarfs 
supernatural in character also appear in the Mabinogion^ and one of them 
is an attendant on King Arthur. In Beroul's Tristan, Frocin, a dwarf, is 
skilled in astrology and magic, and in the version by Thomas we find 
a similar reference. 

« Tylor, Prim. Cult.* i. 385. 
--^ • Cf. Windle, op. cit., Intro., p. 57. 

* Hunt, Anthrop. Mems,, ii. 294 ; cf. Windle, op. cit., Intro., p. 57. 


large stone.^ Likewise the Polong, a Malay familiar spirit, 
is * an exceedingly diminutive female figure or mannikin \^ 
East Indian nature-spirits, too, are pygmies in stature.^ In 
Polynesia, entirely independent of the common legends 
about wild races of pygmy stature, are myths about the 
spirits called wui or vui, who correspond to European dwarfs 
and trolls. These little spirits seem to occupy the same 
position toward the Melanesian gods or culture heroes, 
Qat of the Banks Islands and Tagaro of the New Hebrides, 
as daemons toward Greek gods, or as good angels toward 
the Christian Trinity, or as fairy tribes toward the Brythonic 
Arthur and toward the Gaelic hero Cuchulainn.* Similarly 
in Hindu mythology pygmies hold an important place, being 
sculptured on most temples in company with the gods; 
e. g. Siva is accompanied by a bodyguard of dwarfs, and one 
of them, the three-legged Bhringi, is a good dancer''* — like 
all corrigans, pixies, and most fairies. 

Beyond the borders of Celtic lands — in Southern Asia 
with its islands, in Melanesia with New Guinea, and in 
Central Africa — pygmy races, generally called Negritos, exist 
at the present day ; but they themselves have a fairy-faith, 
just as their normal-sized primitive neighbours have, and 
it would hardly be reasonable to argue that either of the 
two fairy-faiths is due to a folk-memory of small-statured 
peoples. Ancient and thoroughly reliable manuscript records 
testify to the existence of pygmies in China during the 
twenty-third century b. c. ; ^ yet no one has ever tried to 
explain the well-known animistic beliefs of modern China- 
men in ghosts, demons, and in little nature-spirits like 
fairies, by saying that these are a folk-memory of this 
ancient pygmy race. In Yezo and the Kurile Islands of 
Japan still survive a few of the hairy Ainu, a Caucasian- 

^ Smith, Myths of the Iroquois, in Amer. Bur. Eth., ii. 65. 

* Skeat, Malay Magic, p. 329. 

' Monier-Williams, Brdhminism and Hinduism (London, 1887), p. 236. 

* Codrington, The Melanesians, p. 152. 

* Dwarfs in the East, in Folk-Lore, iv. 401-2. 

* Lacouperie, Babylonian and Oriental Record, v ; cf. Windle, op. cit., 
Intro., pp. 21-2. 


like, under-sized race ; and their immediate predecessors; 
whom they exterminated, were a Negrito race, who, accord- 
ing to some traditions, were two to three feet in stature, 
and, according to other traditions, only one inch in stature.^ 
Both pygmy races, the surviving and the exterminated 
race, seem independently to have evolved a beUef in ghosts 
and spirits, so that here again it need not be argued that 
the present pre-Buddhist animism of the Japanese is due 
to a folk-memory of either Ainus or Negritos. 

Further examination of the animistic hypothesis designed 
to explain the smallness of elvish spirits leads away from 
mere mythology into psychology, and sets us the task of 
finding out if, after all, primitive ideas about the disembodied 
human soul may not have originated or at least have helped 
to shape the Celtic folk conception of fairies as small- 
statured beings. Mr. A. E. Crawley, in his Idea of the Soul 
(pp. 200-1, 206), shows by carefully selected evidence from 
ancient and modern psychologies that ' first among the 
attributes of the soul in its primary form may be placed 
its size ', and that * in the majority of cases it is a miniature 
replica of the person, described often as a mannikin, or 
homunculus, of a few inches in height '. Sometimes the soul 
is described as only about three inches in stature. Dr. 
Frazer shows, likewise, that by practically all contemporary 
primitive peoples the soul is commonly regarded as a dwarf .^ 

The same opinions regarding the human soul prevailed 
among ancient peoples highly civilized, i. e. the Egyptians 
and Greeks, and may have thence directly influenced Celtic 
tradition. Thus, in bas-relief on the Egyptian temple of 
Der el Bahri, Queen Hatshepsd Ramaka is making offerings 
of perfume to the gods, while just behind her stands her Ka 
(soul) as a pygmy so little that the crown of its head is just 
on a level with her waist. ^ The Ka is usually represented 
as about half the size of an ordinary man. In the Book of 

^ A. H. S. Landor, Alone with the Hairy Ainu (London, 1893), p. 251 ; 
also Windle, op. cit., Intro., pp. 22-4. 

* J, G. Frazer, Golden Bough^ (London, 1900), i. 248 ff. 

' Cf. A. Wiedemann, Ancient Egyptian Doctrine Immortality (London, 
1895), p. 12. 


the Dead, the Ba, which like the Ka is one of the many 
separable parts of the soul, is represented as a very little 
man with wings and bird-like body. 

On Greek vases the human soul is depicted as a pygmy 
issuing from the body through the mouth ; and this coii- 
ception existed among Romans and Teutons.^ Like their 
predecessors the Egyptians, the Greeks also often repre- 
sented the soul as a small winged human figure, and Romans, 
in turn, imagined the soul as a pygmy with butterfly wings. 
These ideas reappear in mediaeval reliefs and pictures 
wherein the soul is shown as a child or little naked man 
going out of the dying person's mouth ; ^ and, according 
^ to Caedmon, who was educated by Celtic teachers, angels^ 
are small and beautiful ^ — quite like good fairies. 

Alchemical and Mystical Theory 

In the positive doctrines of mediaeval alchemists and 
mystics, e.g. Paracelsus and the Rosicrucians, as well as 
their modern followers, the ancient metaphysical ideas of 
Egypt, Greece, and Rome find a new expression ; and these 
doctrines raise the final problem — if there are any scientific 
grounds for believing in such pygmy nature-spirits as these 
remarkable thinkers of the Middle Ages claim to have 
studied as beings actually existing in nature. To some 
extent this interesting problem will be examined in our 
chapter entitled Science and Fairies ; here we shall simply 
outline the metaphysical theory, adding the testimony of 
some of its living advocates to explain the smallness of 
elvish spirits and fairies. 

These mediaeval metaphysicians, inheritors of pre- 
Platonic, Platonic, and neo-Platonic teachings, purposely 
obscured their doctrines under a covering of alchemical 
terms, so as to safeguard themselves against persecution, 
open discussion of occultism not being safe during the 

* Cf. A. E. Crawley, Idea of the Soul (London, 1909), p. 186. 

* Examples are in Orcagna's fresco of ' The Triumph of Death ', in the 
Campo Santo of Pisa (cf. A. Wiedemann, Anc. Egy. Doct. Immort., p. 34 ff.) ; 
and over the porch of the Cathedral Church of St. Trophimus, at Aries. 

» Cf. Crawley, op. cit., p. 187. 


Middle Ages, as it was among the ancients and happily is 
now again in our own generation. But they were quite 
scientific in their methods, for they divided all invisible 
beings into four distinct classes : the Angels, who in char- 
acter and function are parallel to the gods of the ancients, 
and equal to the Tuatha De Danann of the Irish, are the 
highest ; below them are the Devils or Demons, who 
correspond to the fallen angels of Christianity ; the third 
class includes all Element als, sub-human Nature-Spirits, 
who are generally regarded as having pygmy stature, 
like the Greek daemons ; and the fourth division com- 
prises the Souls of the Dead, and the shades or ghosts of 
the dead. 

For us, the third class, which includes spirits of pygmy- 
like form, is the most important in this present discussion. 
All its members are of four kinds, according as they inhabit 
one of the four chief elements of nature.^ Those inhabiting 
the earth are called Gnomes. They are definitely of pygmy 
stature, and friendly to man, and in fairy-lore ordinarily 
correspond to mine-haunting fairies or goblins, to pixies, 
corrigans, leprechauns, and to such elves as live in rocks, 
caverns, or earth — an important consideration entirely over- 
looked by champions of the Pygmy Theory. Those inhabit- 
ing the air are called Sylphs. These Sylphs, commonly 
described as little spirits like pygmies in form, correspond 
to most of the fairies who are not of the Tuatha De Danann 
or ' gentry ' type, and who as a race are beautiful and grace- 
ful. They are quite like the fairies in Shakespeare's Mid- 
summer -NigMs Dream \ and especially like the aerials in 
The Tempest, which, according to Mr. Morton Luce, a com- 
mentator on the drama, seem to have been shaped by 
Shakespeare from his knowledge of Rosicrucian occultism, 
in which such spirits hold an important place. Those in- 
habiting the water are called Undines, and correspond 
exactly to the fairies who live in sacred fountains, lakes, or 
rivers. And the fourth kind, those inhabiting the fire, are 

* General references : Eliphas Levi, Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie 
(Paris) ; Paracelsus ; A. E. Waite, The Occult Sciences (London, 1891). 



called Salamanders, and seldom appear in the Celtic Fairy- 
Faith : they are supreme in the elementary hierarchies. 
All these Elementals, who procreate after the manner of 
men, are said to have bodies of an elastic half -material 
essence, which is sufficiently ethereal not to be visible to 
the physical sight, and probably comparable to matter in 
the form of invisible gases. Mr. W. B. Yeats has given this 
explanation : — * Many poets, and all mystic and occult 
writers, in all ages and countries, have declared that behind 
the visible are chains on chains of conscious beings, who are 
not of heaven but of the earth, who have no inherent form, 
but change according to their whim, or the mind that sees 
them. You cannot lift your hand without influencing and 
being influenced by hordes. The visible world is merely 
their skin. In dreams we go amongst them, and play with 
them, and combat with them. They are, perhaps, human 
souls in the crucible — these creatures of whim.' ^ And 
bringing this into relation with ordinary fairies, he says : — 
' Do not think the fairies are always little. Everything is 
capricious about them, even their size. They seem to take 
what size or shape pleases them.' ^ In The Celtic Twilight 
Mr. Yeats makes the statement that the ' fairies in Ireland 
are sometimes as big as we are, sometimes bigger, and some- 
times, as I have been told, about three feet high.' ^ 

Mrs. X, a cultured Irishwoman now living in County 
Dublin, who as a percipient fulfils all the exacting require- 
ments which psychologists and pathologists would demand, 
tells me that very frequently she has had visions of fairy 
beings in Ireland, and her own classification and description 
of these fairy beings, chiefly according to their stature, are 
as follows : — ' Among the usually invisible races which 
I have seen in Ireland, I distinguish five classes, (i) There 
are the Gnomes, who are earth-spirits, and who seem to be 
a sorrowful race. I once saw some of them distinctly on 
the side of Ben Bulbin. They had rather round heads and 
dark thick-set bodies, and in stature were about two and 

* W. B. Yeats, Irish Fairy and Folk-Tales (London), p. 2. 
' W. B. Yeats, The Celtic Twilight (London, 1902), p. 92 n. 


one-half feet. (2) The Leprechauns are different, being full 
of mischief, though they, too, are small. I followed a lepre- 
chaun from the town of Wicklow out to the Carraig Sidhe, 
" Rock of the Fairies," a distance of half a mile or more, 
where he disappeared. He had a very merry face, and 
beckoned to me with his finger. (3) A third class are the 
Little People, who, unlike the Gnomes and Leprechauns, 
are quite good-looking ; and they are very small. (4) The 
Good People are tall beautiful beings, as tall as ourselves, 
to judge by those I saw at the rath in Rosses Point. 
They direct the magnetic currents of the earth. (5) The 
Gods are really the Tuatha De Danann, and they are 
much taller than our race. There may be many other 
classes of invisible beings which I do not know.* (Recorded 
on October 16, 1910.) 

And independently of the Celtic peoples there is available 
very much testimony of the most reliable character from 
modern disciples of the mediaeval occultists, e. g. the Rosi- 
crucians, and the Theosophists, that there exist in nature 
invisible spiritual beings of pygmy stature and of various 
forms and characters, comparable in all respects to the 
little people of Celtic folk-lore. How all this is parallel to 
the Celtic Fairy-Faith is perfectly evident, and no comment 
of ours is necessary.^ 

This point of view, presented by mediaeval and modern 
occult sciences and confirmed by Celtic and non-Celtic 
percipients, when considered in relation to its non-Celtic 
sources and then at once contrasted with ancient and 
modern Celtic beliefs of the same character which con- 
stitute it — to be seen in the above Gaelic and Brythonic 
manuscript and other evidence, and in Caedmon's theory 
that angels are small beings — plunges us into the very com- 
plex and extremely difficult problem how far fairies as 
pygmy spirits may be purely Celtic, and how far they may 
reflect beliefs not Celtic. The problem, however, is far too 
complicated to be discussed here ; and one may briefly say 
that there seems to have been a time in the evolution of 

* In this connexion should be read Mr. Jenner's Introduction, pp. 167 ff. 

R 2 


animism when the ancient Celts of Britain, of Ireland, and 
of Continental Europe too, held, in common with the ancient 
Greeks, Romans, and Teutons, an original Aryan doctrine. 
This doctrine, after these four stocks separated in possession 
of it, began to evolve its four specialized aspects which we 
now can study ; and in the Irish Universities of the early 
Christian centuries, when Ireland was the centre of European 
learning, the classical and Celtic aspects of it met for the 
first time since their prehistoric divorcement. There, as is 
clearly seen later among the mediaeval alchemists and 
occultists, a new influence — from Christian theology — was 
superadded to the ancient animistic beliefs of Europe as they 
had evolved up to that time. 


The ethnological argument, after allowing for all its short- 
comings, suggests that small-statured races like Lapps and 
Eskimos (though not necessarily true pygmy races, of whose 
existence in Europe there is no proof available) did once 
inhabit lands where there are Celts, and that a Celtic folk- 
memory of these could conceivably have originated a belief 
in certain kinds of fairies, and thus have been a shaping 
influence in the animistic traditions about other fairies. 
The animistic argument shows that pygmies described in 
Celtic literature and in Celtic and non-Celtic mythologies 
are nearly always to be thought of as non-human spirits ; 
and that there is now and was in past ages a world-wide 
belief that the human soul is in stature a pygmy. The 
philosophical argument of alchemists and mystics, in a way, 
draws to itself the animistic argument, and sets up the 
hypothesis that the smallness of elves and fairies is due to 
their own nature, because they actually exist as invisible 
tribes of non-human beings of pygmy size and form. 

The Changeling Belief 

The smallness of fairies, which has just been considered, 
and the belief in changelings are the two most prominent 
characteristics of the Fairy-Faith, according to our evidence 


in chapter ii ; and we are now to consider the second. 
The prevalent and apparently the only important theories 
which are current to explain this belief in changelings may 
be designated as the Kidnap Theory and the Human- 
Sacrifice Theory. These we shall proceed to estimate, after 
which there will be introduced newer and seemingly more 
adequate theories. 

Kidnap Theory 

Some writers have argued that the changeling belief 
merely reflects a time when the aboriginal pre-Celtic peoples 
held in subjection by the Celts, and forced to live in moun- 
tain caverns and in secret retreats underground, occasion- 
ally kidnapped the children of their conquerors, and that 
such kidnapped children sometimes escaped and told to 
their Celtic kinsmen highly romantic tales about having 
been in an underground fairy-world with fairies. Fre- 
quently this argument has taken a slightly different form : 
that instead of unfriendly pre-Celtic peoples it was magic- 
working Druids who — either through their own choice or 
else, having been driven to bay by the spread of Christianity, 
through force of circumstances — dwelt in secret in cham- 
bered mounds or souterrains, or in dense forests, and then 
stole young people for recruits, sometimes permitting them, 
years afterwards, when too old to be of further use, to return 
home under an inviolable vow of secrecy.^ And Mr. David 
MacRitchie in supporting his own Pygmy Theory has made 
interesting modern elaborations of these two slightly different 
theories concerning changelings.^ 

As already pointed out, there are definite ethnological 
elements blended in the other parts of the complex Fairy- 
Faith ; and so in this part of it, the changeling belief, there 
are conceivably more of such elements which lend some sup- 

* Cf. Cririe, Scottish Scenery (London, 1803), pp. 347-8 ; P. Graham, 
Sketches Descriptive of Picturesque Scenery on the Southern Confines of 
Perthshire (Edinburgh, 18 12), pp. 248-50, 253 ; Mahe, Essai sur les An- 
tiquit/s du Depart, du Morbihan (Vannes, 1825) ; Maury, Les F/es du 
Moyen-Age (Paris, 1843). 

* David MacRitchie, Druids and Mound Dwellers, in Celtic Review 
(January 1910) ; and his Testimony of Tradition. 


port to the Kidnap Theory. In itself, however, as we hope 
to show conclusively, the Theory, failing to grasp the 
essential and underlying character of this belief, does not 
adequately explain it. 

Human-Sacrifice Theory 

Alfred Nutt advanced a theory, which anticipated one 
part of our own, that ' the changeling story is found to be 
connected with the antique conception of life and sacrifice '. 
And he wrote : — * It is at least possible that the sickly and 
ailing would be rejected when the time came for each 
family to supply its quota of victims, and this might easily 
translate itself in the folk-memory into the statement that 
the fairies had carried off the healthy ' (alone acceptable as 
sacrifice) * and left in exchange the sickly.' ^ Though our 
evidence will not permit us to accept the theory (why it will 
not will be clear as we proceed) that some such sacrificial 
customs among the ancient Celts entirely account for the 
changeling story, yet we consider it highly probable that 
the theory helps to explain particular aspects of the com- 
plex tradition, and that the underlying philosophy of 
sacrifice extended in an animistic way, as we shall try to 
extend it, probably offers more complete explanation. 

Thus, the Mexicans believed that the souls of all sacrificed 
children went to live with the god Tlaloc in his heaven- 
world. ^ Among the Greeks, a sacrificed victim appears to 
have been sent as a messenger, bearing a message repeated 
to him before death to some god.^ On the funeral pile of 
Patroclus were laid Trojan captives, together with horses 
and hounds, a practice corresponding to that of American 
Red Men ; the idea being that the sacrificed Trojans and 
the horses and hounds as well, were thus sent to serve the 
slain warriors in the other world. Among ourselves in Europe 
and in America it is not uncommon to read in the daily 
newspaper about a suicide as resulting from the belief that 

* K. Meyer and A. Nutt, Voyage of Bran (London, 1895-7), ii. 231-2. 
' Cf. Tylor, Prim. Cult.* ii. 61. 

• Lawson, Modern Greek Folklore, pp. 356, 359. 


death alone can bring union with a deceased sweetheart or 
loved one. These examples, and very many parallel ones to 
be found the world over, seem to furnish the key to the 
theory of sacrifice : namely, that by extinguishing life in 
this world it is transmitted to the world of the gods, spirits, 
and the dead. 

Both Sir John Rhys and D'Arbois de Jubainville have 
shown that the Irish were wont to sacrifice the first-born of ^ 
children and of flocks.^ O' Curry points out a clear case 
of human sacrifice at an ancient Irish funeral 2 : — ' Fiachra 
then brought fifty hostages with him from Munster * ; and, 
when he died, * the hostages which he brought from the 
south were buried alive around the Fert (burial mound) of 
Fiachra.' More commonly the ancient Celts seem to have 
made sacrifices to appease place-spirits before the erection 
of a new building, by sending to them through death the 
soul of a youth (see p. 436). 

It is in such animistic beliefs as these, which underlie 
sacrifice, that we find a partial solution of the problem of 
changeling belief. But the sacrifice theory is also inadequate ; 
for, though changelings may in some cases in ancient times 
have conceivably been the sickly children discarded by 
priests as unfit for sending to the gods or fairies, how can 
we explain actual changelings to be met with to-day in all 
Celtic lands ? Some other hypothesis is evidently necessary. 

Soul-Wandering Theory 

Comparative study shows that non-Celtic changeling 
beliefs parallel to those of the Celts exist almost every- 
where, that they centre round the primitive idea that the 
human soul can be abstracted from the body by disembodied 
spirits and by magicians, and that they do not depend upon 
the sacrifice theory, though animistically closely related to 
it. For example, according to the Lepers* Islanders, ghosts 
steal men — as fairies do — * to add them to their company ; 

* Rhys, Hib. Led., p. 201 ; Jubainville, Cyc. Myth. Itl., pp. 106-8. 

* E. O'Curry, Manners and Customs (Dublin, 1873), I. cccxx ; from 
Book of Bally mote, fol. 145, b. b. 


and if a man has left children when he died, one of whom 
sickens afterwards, it is said that the dead father takes it.' ^ 
In Banks Island, Polynesia, the ghost of a woman who has 
died in childbirth is greatly dreaded : as long as her child 
is on earth she cannot proceed to Panoi, the otherworld ; 
and the relatives take her child to another house, * because 
they know that the mother will come back to take its soul.* ^ 
When a Motlav child sneezes, the mother will cry, * Let him 
*' come back into the world ! let him remain.' Under similar 
circumstances in Mota, the cry is, * Live ; roll back to us I ' 
* The notion is that a ghost is drawing a child's soul away.' 
If the child falls ill the attempt has succeeded, and a wizard 
throws himself into a trance and goes to the ghost-world 
to bring the child's soul back.^ In the islands of Kei and 
Kisar a belief prevails that the spirits of the dead can take 
to themselves the souls of the living who go near the graves.* 
Sometimes a Polynesian mother insists on being buried with 
her dead child ; or a surviving wife with her dead husband, 
so that there will be no separation.^ These last practices 
help to illustrate the Celtic theory behind the belief that 
fairies can abduct adults. 

Throughout Melanesia sickness is generally attributed to 
the soul's absence from the body, and this state of dis- 
embodiment is believed to be due to some ghost's or spirit's 
interference,^ just as among Celts sickness is often thought 
to be due to fairies having taken the soul to Fairyland. An 
old Irish piper who came up to Lady Gregory's home at 
Coole Park told us that a certain relative of his, a woman, 
had lain in a semi-conscious state of illness for months, and 
that when she recovered full consciousness she declared she 
had been with the ' good people '. 

Folk-beliefs like all the above, which more adequately ex- 
plain the changeling idea than the Human-Sacrifice Theory, 
are world-wide, being at once Celtic and non-Celtic.'^ 

* Codrington, The Melanesians, p. 286. * lb., p. 275. 

* lb., pp. 226, 208-9. * Crawley, Idea of the Soul, p. 114. 
' Codrington, The Melanesians, p. 289. • lb., p. 194. 

' Cf . Crawley, Idea of the Soul, chap. iv. 


Demon-Possession Theory 

There has been among many peoples, primitive and 
civilized, a complementary belief to the one that evil spirits 
or ghosts may steal a soul and so cause in the vacated body 
illness if the abduction is temporary, and death if it is 
permanent : namely, a belief that demons, who sometimes 
may be souls of the dead, can possess a human body while 
the soul is out of it during sleep, or else can expel the 
soul and occupy its place. ^ When complete possession of 
this character takes place there is — as in * mediumship * — 
a change of personality, and the manner, thoughts, actions, 
language, and the whole nature of the possessed person are 
radically changed. Sometimes a foreign tongue, of which 
the subject is ignorant, is fluently spoken. When the posses- 
sion is an evil one, as Dr. Nevius has observed in China, 
where the phenomena are common, the change of character 
is in the direction of immorality, frequently in strong 
contrast with the character of the subject under normal 
conditions, and is often accompanied by paroxysms and con- 
tortions of the body, as I have often been solemnly assured 
by Celts is the case in a changeling. (See M. Le Scour's 
account on page 198, of three changelings that he saw in one 
family in Finistere ; and compare what is said about fairy 
changelings in Ireland, Scotland, Isle of Man, Wales, and 

A conception like that among the Chinese, of how an evil 
spirit may dispossess the soul inhabiting a child's or adult's 
body, seems to be the basis and original conception behind 
the fairy-changeling belief in all Celtic and other countries. 
When a child has been changed by fairies, and an old fairy left 
in its place, the child has been, according to this theory, dis- 
possessed of its body by an evil fairy, which a Chinaman calls 
a demon, while the leaving behind of the old fairy accounts 
for the changed personality and changed facial expression of 
the demon-possessed infant. The Chinese demon enters into 

^ For a thorough and scientific discussion of this matter, see J. L. Nevius, 
Demon Possession (London, 1897). 


and takes complete possession of the child's body while the 
child's soul is out of it during sleep — and all fairies make 
changelings when a babe is asleep in its cradle at night, or 
during the day when it is left alone for a short time. The 
Chinese child-soul is then unable to return into its body 
until some kind of magical ceremony or exorcism expels 
the possessing demon ; and through precisely similar methods, 
often aided by Christian priests, Celts cure changelings 
made by fairies, pixies, and corrigans. In the following 
account, therefore, apparently lies the root explanation of 
the puzzling beliefs concerning fairy changelings so commonly 
met with in the Celtic Fairy-Faith : — * To avert the calamity 
of nursing a demon, dried banana-skin is burnt to ashes, 
which are then mixed with water. Into this the mother 
dips her finger and paints a cross upon the sleeping babe's 
forehead. In a short time the demon soul returns — for the 
soul wanders from the body during sleep and is free — but, 
failing to recognize the body thus disguised, flies off. The 
true soul, which has been waiting for an opportunity, now 
approaches the dormant body, and, if the mark has been 
washed off in time, takes possession of it ; but if not, it, like 
the demon, failing to recognize the body, departs, and the 
child dies in its sleep.' ^ 

In relation to this Demon-Possession Theory, the writer 
has had the opportunity of observing carefully some living 
changelings among the Celts, and is convinced that in many 
such cases there is an undoubted belief expressed by the 
parents and friends that fairy-possession has taken place. 
This belief often translates itself naturally into the folk- 
theory that the body of the child has also been changed, 
when examination proves only a change of personality as 
recognized by psychologists ; or, in a distinct type of 
changelings, those who exhibit great precocity in childhood 

* N. G. Mitchell-Innes, Birth, Marriage, and Death Rites of the Chinese, 
in Folk-Lore Journ., v. 225. Very curiously, the pagan Chinese mother 
uses the sign of the cross against the demon as Celtic mothers use it against 
fairies ; and no exorcism by Catholic or Protestant to cure a fairy change- 
ling or to drive out possessing demons is ever performed without this 
world-wide and pre-Christian sign of the cross (see pp. 270-1). 


combined with an old and wizened countenance, there is 
neither a changed personality nor demon-possession, but 
simply some abnormal physical or mental condition, in the 
nature of cretinism, atrophy, marasmus, or arrested develop- 
ment. One of the most striking examples of a changeling 
exists at Plouharnel-Carnac, Brittany, where there is now 
living a dwarf Breton whom I have photographed and talked 
with, and who may possibly combine in himself both the 
abnormal psychical and the abnormal pathological con- 
ditions. He is no taller than a normal child ten years old, 
but being over thirty years old he is thick-set, though not 
deformed. All the peasants who know him call him * the 
Little Corrigan \ and his own mother declares that he is 
not the child she gave birth to. He once said to me 

with a kind of pathetic protest, * Did M. tell you that 

I am a demon ? ' 


The Kidnap Theory, resting entirely upon the ethnological 
and social or psychological elements which we have else- 
where pointed out as existing in the superficial aspects of 
the essentially animistic Fairy-Faith as a whole, is accord- 
ingly limited in its explanation of this specialized part of the 
Fairy-Faith, the changeling belief, to these same elements 
which may exist in the changeling belief. And, on the show- 
ing of anthropology, the other theories undoubtedly offer 
a more adequate explanation. 

By means of sacrifice, according to its underlying philo- 
sophy, man is able to transmit souls from this world to the 
world where dwell the gods and fairy-folk both good and 
evil. Thus, had Abraham sacrificed Isaac, the soul of Isaac 
would have been taken to heaven by Jehovah as fairies 
take souls to Fairyland through death. But the difference 
is that in human sacrifice men do voluntarily and for specific 
religious ends what various kinds of fairies or spirits would 
do without human intervention and often maliciously, as 
our review of ancient and modern theories of sacrifice has 
shown. Gods and fairies are spiritual beings ; hence only 
the spiritual part of man can be delivered over to them. 


Melanesians and other peoples whose changeHng behefs 
have now been examined, regard all illness and death as the 
result of spirit interference ; while Celts regard strange 
maladies in children and in adults as the result of fairy inter- 
ference. And to no Celt is death in early life a natural 
thing : if it comes to a child or to a beautiful youth in any 
way whatsoever, the fairies have taken what they coveted. 
In all mythologies gods have always enjoyed the companion- 
ship of beautiful maidens, and goddesses the love of heroic 
youths ; and they have often taken them to their world as 
the Tuatha De Danann took the great heroes of the ancient 
Celts to the Otherworld or Avalon, and as they still in the 
character of modern fairies abduct brides and young mothers, 
and bridegrooms or other attractive young men whom they 
wish to have with them in Fairyland (see our chapters iv-vi). 

Where sacrifice or death has not brought about such com- 
plete transfer or abduction of the soul to the fairy world, 
there is only a temporary absence from human society ; 
and, meanwhile, the vacated body is under a fairy spell and 
lies ill, or unconscious if there is a trance state. If the body 
is an infant's, a fairy may possess it, as in the Chinese theory 
of demon-possession. In such cases the Celts often think 
that the living body is that of another child once taken but 
since grown too old for Fairyland ; though the rational 
explanation frequently is purely pathological. Looked at 
philosophically, a fairy exchange of this kind is fair and 
evenly balanced, and there has been no true robbery. And 
in this aspect of the changeling creed — an aspect of it purely 
Celtic — there seems to be still another influence apart from 
human sacrifice, soul-abductions, demon or fairy-possession, 
and disease ; namely, a greatly corrupted folk-memory of 
an ancient re-birth doctrine : the living are taken to the 
dead or the fairies and then sent back again, after the manner 
of Socrates' argument that the living come from the dead 
and the dead from the living (cf. our chapter vii). In all 
such exchanges, the economy of Nature demands that the 
balance between the two worlds be maintained : hence there 
arose the theories of human sacrifice, of soul abduction, of 


demon or fairy-possession ; and in all these collectively is 
to be found the complete psychological explanation of the 
fairy-changeling and fairy-abduction beliefs among ancient 
and modern Celts as these show themselves in the Fairy- 
Faith. All remaining classes of changelings, which fall out- 
side the scope of this clearly defined psychological theory, 
are to be explained pathologically. 

Magic and Witchcraft 

The evidence from each Celtic country shows very clearly 
that magic and witchcraft are inseparably blended in the 
Fairy-Faith, and that human beings, i.e. * charmers,' dynion 
hysbys, and other magicians, and sorceresses, are often 
enabled through the aid of fairies to perform the same 
magical acts as fairies ; or, again, like Christian priests who 
use exorcisms, they are able, acting independently, to 
counteract fairy power, thereby preventing changelings or 
curing them, saving churnings, healing man or beast of 
' fairy-strokes ', and, in short, nullifying all undesirable 
influences emanating from the fairy world. A correct 
interpretation of these magical elements so prominent in the 
Fairy-Faith is of fundamental importance, because if made 
it will set us on one of the main psychical highways which 
traverse the vast territory of our anthropological inquiry. 
Let us, then, undertake such an interpretation, first setting 
up, as we must, some sort of working hypothesis as to what 
magic is, witchcraft being assumed to be a part of magic. 

Theories of Modern Anthropologists 

We may define magic, as understood by ancients and 
moderns, civilized or non-civilized, apart from conjuring, 
which is mere jugglery and deception of the senses, as the art 
of controlling for particular ends various kinds of invisible 
forces, often, and, as we hold, generally thought of as intel- 
ligent spirits. This is somewhat opposed to Mr. Marett's 
point of view, which emphasizes ' pre- animistic influences *, 
i.e. * powers to which the animistic form is very vaguely 
attributed if at all.' And, in dealing with the anthro- 


pological aspects of spell-casting in magical operations, 
Mr. Marett conceives such a magical act to be in relation to the 
magician ' generically, a projection of imperative will, and 
specifically one that moves on a supernormal plane ', and 
the victim's position towards this invisible projected force 
to be ' a position compatible with rapport '} He also thinks 
it probable that the essence of the magician's supernormal 
power lies in what Melanesians call mana} In our opinion 
mana may be equated with what William James, writing of 
his attitude toward psychical phenomena, called a univer- 
sally diffused ' soul-stuff ' leaking through, so to speak, and 
expressing itself in the human individual.^ On this view, 
Mr. Marett 's theory would amount to saying that magicians 
are able to produce magical effects because they are able to 
control this * soul-stuff * ; and our evidence would regard 
all spirits and fairies as portions of such universally diffused 
mana, * soul-stuff ', or, as Fechner might call it, the ' Soul 
of the World '. Moreover, in essence, such an idea of magic 
coincides, when carefully examined, with what ancient 
thinkers like Plato, lamblichus, the Neo-Platonists generally, 
and mediaeval magicians like Paracelsus and Eliphas Levi, 
called magic ; and agrees with ancient Celtic magic — judg- 
ing from what Roman historians have recorded concerning 
it, and from Celtic manuscripts themselves. 

Other modern anthropologists have set up far less satis- 
factory definitions of magic. According to Dr. Frazer, for 
example, magic assumes, as natural science does, that * one 
event follows another necessarily and invariably without 
the intervention of any spiritual or personal agency '.^ 
Such a theory is not supported by the facts of anthro- 
pology ; and does not even apply to those specialized and 
often superficial kinds of magic classed under it by Dr. Frazer 
as 'sympathetic and imitative magic', i.e. that through 
which like produces like, or part produces whole. To our 

* R. R. Marett, The Threshold of Religion (London, 1909), p. 58, &c. ; 
p. 67. 

* W. James, Confidences of a ' Psychical Researcher ', in American 
Magazine (October 1909). 

' Frazer, The Golden Bough' (London, 191 1), i. 220. 


mind, sympathetic and imitative magic (to leave out of 
account many fallacious and irrational ritualistic practices, 
which Dr. Frazer includes under these loose terms), when 
genuine, in their varied aspects are directly dependent upon 
hypnotic states, upon telepathy, mind-reading, mental sug- 
gestion, association of ideas, and similar processes ; in short, 
are due to the operation of mind on mind and will on will, 
and, moreover, are recognized by primitive races to have 
this fundamental character. Or, according to the Fairy- 
Faith, they are caused by a fairy or disembodied spirit 
acting upon an embodied one, a man or woman ; and not, 
as Dr. Frazer holds, through * mistaken applications of one 
or other of two great fundamental laws of thought, namely, 
the association of ideas by similarity and the association of 
ideas by contiguity in space or time '.^ 

The mechanical causation theory of magic, as thus set 
forth in The Golden Bough, does not imply mana or will- 
power, as Mr. Marett's more adequate theory does in part : 
Dr. Frazer wishes us to regard animistic religious practices 
as distinct from magic.^ Nevertheless, in direct opposition 
to Dr. Frazer's view, the weight of the evidence from the 
past and from the present, which we are about to offer, is 
decidedly favourable to our regarding magic and religion as 
complementary to one another and, for all ordinary pur- 
poses of the anthropologist, as in principle the same. The 
testimony touching magicians in all ages, Celtic magic and 
witchcraft as well, besides that resulting from modern 
psychical research, tends to establish an almost exclusively 
animistic hypothesis to account for fairy magical pheno- 
mena and like phenomena among human beings ; and with 
these phenomena we are solely concerned. 

Among the Ancients^ 

Among the more cultured Greeks and Romans — and the 
same can be said of most great nations of antiquity — it was 

* Frazer, The Golden Bongh,^ i. 221-2. 

* lb., chap. iv. 

^ See Apuleius, De Deo Socratis \ Cicero, De Natura Deorum (lib. i); 
lamblichus, De My sterns Aegypt., Chaldaeor., Assyrior.; Fla-to, Timaeus, 


an unquestioned belief that innumerable gods, placed in 
hierarchies, form part of an unbroken spiritual chain at the 
lowest end of which stands man, and at the highest the 
incomprehensible Supreme Deity. These gods, having their 
abodes throughout the Universe, act as the agents of the 
Unknown God, directing the operation of His cosmic laws 
and animating every star and planet. Inferior to these gods, 
and to man also, the ancients believed there to be innumer- 
able hosts of invisible beings, called by them daemons, who, 
acting as the servants of the gods, control, and thus in 
a secondary sense create, all the minor phenomena of inani- 
mate and animate nature, such as tempests, atmospheric 
disturbances generally, the failure of crops or their abun- 
dance, maladies and their cure, good and evil passions in 
men, wars and peace, and all the blessings and curses which 
affect the purely human life. 

Man, being of the god-race and thus superior to these 
lower, servile entities, could, like the gods, control them if 
adept in the magical sciences ; for ancient Magic, about 
which so much has been written and about which so little 
has been understood by most people in ancient, mediaeval, 
and modern times, is according to the wisest ancients nothing 
more than the controlling of daemons, shades, and all sorts 
of secondary spirits or elementals by men specially trained 
for that purpose. Sufficient records are extant to make it 
evident that the ^fundamental training of Egyptian, Indian, 
Assyrian, Greek, Roman, and Druid priests was in the 
magical or occult sciences. Pliny, in his Natural History, 
says : — ' And to-day Britain practises the art [of magic] 
with religious awe and with so many ceremonies that it 
might seem to have made the art known to the Persians.' ^ 
Herein, then, is direct evidence that the Celtic Fairy-Faith, 
considered in its true psychic nature, has been immediately 
shaped by the ancient Celtic religion ; and, as our witness 

Symposium, PoHHcus, Republic, ii. iii. x ; Plutarch, De Defectu Oracu- 
lorum, The Daemon of Socrates, Isis and Osiris ; Proclus, Commentarius 
in Platonis Alcibiadem. 

^ Pliny, Natural History, xxx. 14. 


from the Isle of Skye so clearly set forth, that it originated 
among a cultured class of the Celts more than among the 
peasants. And, in accordance with this evidence. Professor 
Georges Dottin, who has made a special study of the his- 
torical records concerning Druidism, writes : — ' The Druids 
of Ireland appear to us above all as magicians and prophets. 
They foretell the future, they interpret the secret will of 
the fees (fairies), they cast lots.' ^ Thus, in spite of the 
popular and Christian reshaping which the belief in fairies 
has had to endure, its origin is easily enough discerned even 
in its modern form, covered over though this is with accre- 
tions foreign to its primal character. 

Magic was the supreme science because it raised its adepts 
out of the ordinary levels of humanity to a close relation- 
ship with the gods and creative powers. Nor was it a science 
to be had for the asking, * for many were the wand-bearers 
and few the chosen.' Roman writers tell us that neophytes 
for the druidic priesthood often spent twenty years in severe 
study and training before being deemed fit to be called 
Druids. We need not, however, in this study enter into an 
exposition of the ordeals and trials of candidates seeking 
magical training, or else initiation into the Mysteries. There 
were always two schools to which they could apply, directly 
opposed in their government and policy — the school of white 
magic and the school of black magic ; the former being 
a school in which magical powers were used in religious rites 
and always for good ends, the latter a school in which all 
magical powers were used for wholly selfish and evil ends. 
In both schools the preliminary training was the same ; that 
is to say, the first thing taught to the neophyte was self- 
control. When he proved himself absolutely his own master, 
when his teachers were certain that he could not be dominated 
by another will or by any outside or psychic influence, then 
for the first time he was permitted to exercise his own iron will 
in controlling daemons, ghosts, and all the elemental hosts of 
the air — either as a white magician or as a black magician.^ 

* Cf. G. Dottin, La Religion des Celtes (Paris, 1904), p. 44. 

' The neo-Platonists generally, including Porphyry, Julian, lamblichus, 



The magical sciences taught (an idea which still holds its 
ground, as one can discover in modern India) that by 
formulas of invocation, by chants, by magic sounds, by 
music, these invisible beings can be made to obey the will 
of the magician even as they obey the will of the gods. 
The calling up of the dead and talking with them is called 
necromancy ; the foretelling through spiritual agency and 
otherwise of coming events or things hidden, like the out- 
come of a battle, is called divination ; the employment of 
charms against children so as to prevent their growing is 
known as fascination ; to cause any ill fortune or death to 
fall upon another person by magic is sorcery ; to excite the 
sexual passions of man or woman, magical mixtures called 
philtres are used. Almost all these definitions apply to the 
practices of black magic. But the great schools known as 
the Mysteries were of white magic, in so far as they prac- 
tised the art ; and such men as Pythagoras, Plato, and 
Aeschylus, who are supposed to have been initiated into them, 
always held them in the highest reverence, though prohibited 
from directly communicating anything of their esoteric teach- 
ings concerning the origin and destiny of man, the nature of 
the gods, and the constitution of the universe and its laws. 

In Plato's Banquet the power or function of the daemonic 
element in nature is explained. Socrates asks of the pro- 
phetess Diotima what is the power of the daemonic element 
(personified as Love for the purposes of the argument), and 
she replies : — * He interprets between gods and men, con- 
veying and taking across to the gods the prayers and sacrifices 

and Maximus, being persuaded of man's power to call up and control 
spirits, called white magic theurgy, or the invoking of good spirits, and the 
reverse goetyy or the calling up and controlling of evil spirits for criminal 
purposes. Cf. F. Lelut, Du Demon de Socrate (Paris, 1836). 

If white magic be correlated with religion as religion is popularly con- 
ceived, namely the cult of supernatural powers friendly to man, and 
black magic be correlated with magic as magic tends to be popularly con- 
ceived, namely witchcraft and devil-worship, we have a satisfactory 
historical and logical basis for making a distinction between religion and 
magic ; religion (including white magic) is a social good, magic (black 
magic) is a social evil. Such a distinction as Dr. Frazer makes is unten- 
able within the field of true magic. 


of men, and to men the commands and replies of the gods ; 
he is the mediator who spans the chasm which divides them, 
and therefore in him all is bound together, and through him 
the arts of the prophets and priests, their sacrifices and 
mysteries and charms, and all prophecy and incantation find 
their way. For God mingles not with man ; but through 
the daemonic element (or Love) all the intercourse and con- 
verse of God with man, whether awake or asleep, is carried 
on. The wisdom which understands this is spiritual.' ^ 

" Among the Ancient Celts 

If we turn now directly to Celtic magic in ancient times, we 
discover that the testimony of Pliny is curiously confirmed 
by Celtic manuscripts, chiefly Irish ones, and that then, as 
now, witchcraft and fairy powers over men and women are 
indistinguishable in their general character. Thus, in the 
Echtra Condla, ' the Adventures of Connla,' the fairy woman 
says of Druidism and magic : — ' Druidism is not loved, little 
has it progressed to honour on the Great Strand. When his 
law shall come it will scatter the charms of Druids from 
journeying on the lips of black, lying demons ' — so charac- 
terized by the Christian transcribers.^ In How Fionn Found 
his Missing Men, an ancient tale preserved by oral tradition 
until recorded by Campbell, it is said that * Fionn then went 
out with Bran (his fairy dog). There were millions of 
people (apparitions) out before him, called up by some 
sleight of hand \^ In the Leahhar na h-Uidre, or ' Book of 
the Dun Cow ' (p. 43 a) , compiled from older manuscripts 
about A.D. iioo, there is a clear example of Irish fetishism 
based on belief in the power of demons : — * ... for their 
swords used to turn against them (the Ulstermen) when they 
made a false trophy. Reasonable [was] this ; for demons 
used to speak to them from their arms, so that hence their 
arms were safeguards.' ^ 

Shape-shifting quite after the fairy fashion is very 

* Cf. B. Jowett, Dialogues of Plato (Oxford, 1892), i. 573. 

* Cf. Meyer and Nutt, Voyage of Bran (London, 1895-7), i. 146. 
' Campbell, The Fians, p. 195. "^ 

* Cf. Stokes's trans, in Rev. Celt., i. 261. 

S 2 


frequently met with in old Celtic literature. Thus, in the 
Rennes Dinnshenchas there is this passage showing that 
spirits or fairies were regarded as necessary for the employ- 
ment of magic : — ' Folks were envious of them (Faifne the 
poet and his sister Aige) : so they loosed elves at them who 
transformed Aige into a fawn ' (the form assumed by the 
fairy mother of Oisin, see p. 299 n.), ' and sent her on a circuit 
all round Ireland, and the fians of Meilge son of Cobthach, 
king of Ireland, killed her.' ^ A fact which ought to be 
noted in this connexion is that kings or great heroes, rather 
than ordinary men and women, are very commonly described 
as being able to shift their own shape, or that of other 
people ; e.g.' Mongan took on himself the shape of Tibraide, 
and gave Mac an Daimh the shape of the cleric, with a large 
tonsure on his head.' ^ And when this fact is coupled with 
another, namely the ancient belief that such kings and great 
heroes were incarnations and reincarnations of the Tuatha 
De Danann, who form the supreme fairy hierarchy, we 
realize that, having such an origin, they were simply exer- 
cising in human bodies powers which their divine race 
exercise over men from the fairy world (see our chapter iv). 

In Brythonic literature and mythology, magic and witch- 
craft with the same animistic character play as great or 
even a greater role than in Gaelic literature and mythology. 
This is especially true with respect to the Arthurian Legend, 
and to the Mabinogion, some of which tales are regarded by 
scholars as versions of Irish ones. Sir John Rhys and 
Professor J. Loth, who have been the chief translators of 
the Mabinogion, consider their chief literary machinery to 
be magic (see our chapter v). 

So far it ought to be clear that Celtic magic contains 
much animism in its composition, and that these few illus- 
trations of it, selected from numerous illustrations in the 
ancient Fairy-Faith, confirm Pliny's independent testimony 
that in his age the Britons seemed capable of instructing 
even the Persians themselves in the magical arts. 

* Cf, Stokes's trans, in Rev. Celt., xv. 307. 

* From the Conception of Mongan, cf . Meyer, Voyage of Bran, i. ;/y. 


European and American Witchcraft 

In a general way, the history of witchcraft in Europe and in 
the American colonies is supplementary to what has already 
been said, seeing that it is an offshoot of mediaeval magic, 
which in turn is an offshoot of ancient magic. Witchcraft 
in the West, in probably a majority of cases, is a mere fabric 
of absurd superstitions and practices — as it is shown to be 
by the evidence brought out in so many of the horrible 
legal and ecclesiastical processes conducted against helpless 
and eccentric old people, and other men and women, includ- 
ing the young, often for the sake of private revenge, and 
generally on no better foundation than hearsay and false 
accusations. In the remaining instances it undoubtedly 
arose, as ancient witchcraft (black magic) seems to have 
arisen, through the infiltration of occult knowledge into 
uneducated and often criminally inclined minds, so that 
what had formerly been secretly guarded among the learned, 
and generally used for legitimate ends, degenerated in the 
hands of the unfit into black magic. In our own age, a 
parallel development, which adequately illustrates our sub- 
ject of inquiry, has taken place in the United States : 
fragments of magical lore bequeathed by Mesmer and his 
immediate predecessors, the alchemists, were practically 
and honestly applied to the practice of magnetic healing 
and healing through mental suggestion by a small group of 
practitioners in Massachusetts, and then with much in- 
genuity and real genius were applied by Mary Baker Eddy 
to the interpretation of miraculous healing by Jesus Christ. 
Hence arose a new religion called Christian Science. But 
this religious movement did not stop at mental healing : 
according to published reports, during the years 1908-9 the 
leader of the New York First Church of Christ, Scientist, 
was deposed, and, with certain of her close associates, 
was charged with having projected daily against the late 
Mrs. Eddy's adjutant a current of * malicious animal mag- 
netism ' from New York to Boston, in order to bring about 
his death. The process is said to have been for the deposed 


leader and her friends to sit together in a darkened room 
with their eyes closed. * Then one of them would say : 

" You all know Mr. . You all know that his place is 

in the darkness whence he came. If his place is six feet 
under ground, that is where he should be." Then all present 

would concentrate their minds on the one thought — Mr. 

and six feet under ground.' And this practice is supposed 

to have been kept up for days. Mrs. , who gives this 

testimony, is a friend of the victim, and she asserts that these 
evil thought- waves slowly but surely began his effacement, 
and that had the black magicians down in New York not 

been discovered in time, Mr. could not have withstood 

the forces.^ Perhaps so enlightened a country as the United 
States may in time see history repeat itself, and add a 
new chapter to witchcraft ; for the true witches were not 
the kind who are popularly supposed to ride on broom- 
sticks and to keep a house full of black cats, and the sooner 
this is recognized the better. 

According to this aspect of Christian Science, * malicious 
animal magnetism ' (or black magic), an embodied spirit, 
i. e. a man or woman, possesses and can employ the same 
magical powers as a disembodied spirit — or, as the Celts 
would say, the same magical powers as a fairy — casting 
spells, and producing disease and death in the victim. And 
this view coincides with ordinary witchcraft theories ; for 
witches have been variously defined as embodied spirits 
who have ability to act in conjunction with disembodied 
spirits through the employment of various occult forces, e.g. 
forces comparable to Mesmer's odic forces, to the Melanesian 
mana, or to the ' soul-stuff ' postulated by William James, 
or, as Celts think, to forces focused in fairies themselves. 
So, also, according to Mr. Marett's view, there is a state of 
rapport between the victim and the magician or witch ; 
and where such a state of rapport exists there is some mana- 
like force passing between the two poles of the magical 

* Quoted and summarized from Projectors of ' Malicious Animal Mag- 
netism ', in Literary Digest, xxxix. No. 17, pp. 676-7 (New York and 
London, October 23, 1909), 


circuit, whether it be only unconscious mental or electrical 
force emanating from the operator, or an extraneous force 
brought under control and concentrated in some such con- 
scious unit as we designate by the term * spirit \ * devil ', 
or ' fairy '. 

In conformity with this psychical or animistic view of 
witchcraft, in the Capital Code of Connecticut (a.d. 1642) 
a witch is defined as one who * hath or consorteth with 
a familiar spirit '.^ European codes, as illustrated by the 
sixth chapter of Lord Coke's Third Institute, have parallels 
to this definition : — * A witch is a person which hath con- 
ference with the devil ; to consult with him to do some 
act.' ^ And upon these theories, not upon the broomstick 
and black-cat conception, were based the trials for witch- 
craft during the seventeenth century. 

The Bible, then so frequently the last court of appeal 
in such matters, was found to sustain such theories about 
witches in the classical example of the Witch of Endor and 
Saul ; and the idea of witchcraft in Europe and America 
came to be based — as it probably always had been in pagan 
times — on the theory that living persons could control or 
be controlled by disembodied spirits for evil ends. Hence 
all black magicians, and what are now known as * spirit 
mediums ', were made liable by law to the death penalty. ^ 

In mediaeval Europe the great difficulty always was, as 
is shown in the trials of Jeanne d'Arc, to decide whether the 
invisible agent in magical processes, such as was imputed to 
the accused, was an angel or a demon. If an angel, then 
the accused was a saint, and might become a candidate for 
canonization ; but if a demon, the accused was a witch, and 
liable to a death-sentence. The wisest old doctors of the 
University of Paris, who sat in judgement (or were con- 
sulted) in one of Jeanne's trials, could not fully decide this 
knotty problem, nor, apparently, the learned churchmen 
who also tried her ; but evidently they all agreed that it 

* Cf. Nevius, Demon Possession, pp. 3cx>-i. 

• For a fuller discussion of the history of witchcraft see The Super- 
stitions of Witchcraft, by Howard Williams, London, 1865. 


was better to waive the question. And, finall}^ an innocent 
peasant girl who had heard Divine Voices, and who had 
thereby miraculously saved her king and her country, was 
burned at the stake, under the joint direction of English 
civil and ecclesiastical authorities, and, if not technically, at 
least practically, with the full approval of the corresponding 
French authorities, at Rouen, France, May 30, a.d. 1431.-^ 
In April, a.d. 1909, almost five centuries afterwards, it has 
been decided with tardy justice that Jeanne's Voices were 
those of angels and not of demons, and she has been made 
a saint. 

How the case of Jeanne d'Arc bears directly upon the 
Fairy-Faith is self-evident : One of the first questions asked 
by Jeanne's inquisitors was * if she had any knowledge of 
those who went to the Sabbath with the fairies ? or if she 
had not assisted at the assemblies held at the fountain of 
the fairies, near Domremy, around which dance malignant 
spirits ? ' And another question exactly as recorded was 
this : — * Interrogue'e s'elle croiet point au devant de aujourduy, 
que les fees feussent maulvais esperis : respond qu'elle nen 
scavoit rien.* ^ 


Finally, we may say that what medicine-men are to 
American Indians, to Polynesians, Australians, Africans, 
Eskimos, and many other contemporary races, or what 
the mightier magicians of modern India are to their people, 
the ' fairy-doctors * and * charmers * of Ireland, Scotland, 
and Man are to the Gaels, and the * Dynion Hyshys ' or 
* Wise Men ' of Wales, the witches of Cornwall, and the 
seers, sorceresses, and exorcists of Brittany are to the 
Brythons. These Gaelic and Brythonic magicians and 
witches, and * fairy mediums ', almost invariably claim to 
derive their power from their ability to see and to com- 
municate with fairies, spirits, and the dead ; and they 
generally say that they are enabled through such spiritual 
agencies to reveal the past, to foretell the future, to locate 

* Cf. J. Quicherat, Proces (Paris, 1845), passim. 
« lb., i. 178. 


lost property, to cast spells upon human beings and upon 
animals, to remove such spells, to cure fairy strokes and 
changelings, to perform exorcisms, and to bring people back 
from Fairyland, 

We arrive at the following conclusion : — If, as eminent 
psychical researchers now postulate (and as many of them 
believe), there are active and intelligent disembodied beings 
able to act psychically upon embodied men in much the same 
way that embodied men are known ordinarily to act psychi- 
cally upon one another, then there is every logical and 
common-sense reason for extending this psychical hypothesis 
so as to include the ancient, mediaeval, and modern theory 
of magic and witchcraft, namely, that what embodied men 
and women can do in magical ways, as for example in 
hypnotism, disembodied men and women can do. Further, 
if fairies, in accord with reliable testimony from educated 
and critical percipients, hypothetically exist (whatever their 
nature may be), they may be possessed of magical powers of 
the same sort, and so can cast spells upon or possess living 
human beings as Celts believe and assert. And this hypo- 
thesis coincides in most essentials with the one we used as 
a basis for this discussion, that, in accordance with the 
Melanesian doctrine of control of ghosts and spirits with 
their inherent mana, magical acts are possible.^ This in 
turn applied to the Celts amounts to a hypothetical con- 
firmation of the ancient druidical doctrine that through 
control of fairies or demons (daemons) Druids or magicians 
could control the weather and natural phenomena connected 
with vegetable and animal processes, could cast spells, could 
divine the future, could execute all magical acts. 


According to the testimony of anthropology, exorcism as 
a religious practice has always flourished wherever animistic 
beliefs have furnished it with the necessary environment ; 
and not only has exorcism been a fundamental part of 
religious practices in past ages, but it is so at the present 

^ Codrington, The Melanesians, pp. 127, 200, 202-3 flf. 


day. Among Christians, Celtic and non-Celtic, among 
followers of all the great historical religions, and especially 
among East Indians, Chinese, American Red Men, Poly- 
nesians, and most Africans, the expelling of demons from 
men and women, from animals, from inanimate objects, and 
from places, is sanctioned by well-established rituals. Exor- 
cism as applied to the human race is thus defined in the 
Dictionnaire de Theologie (Roman Catholic) by L'Abbe 
Bergier : — * Exorcism — conjuration, prayer to God, and com- 
mand given to the demon to depart from the body of persons 
possessed.' The same authority thus logically defends its 
practice by the Church : — ' Far from condemning the opinion 
of the Jews, who attributed to the demon certain maladies, 
that divine Master confirmed it.' ^ And whenever exorcism 
of this character has been or is now generally practised, the 
professional exorcist appears as a personage just as necessary 
to society as the modern doctor, since nearly all diseases 
were and to some extent are still, both among Christians 
and non-Christians, very often thought to be the result of 

When we come to the dawn of the Christian period in 
Ireland and in Scotland, we see Patrick and Columba, the 
first and greatest of the Gaelic missionaries, very extensively 
practising exorcism ; and there is every reason to believe 
(though the data available on this point are somewhat un- 
satisfactory) that their wide practice of exorcism was quite 
as much a Christian adaptation of pre-Christian Celtic 
exorcism, such as the Druids practised, as it was a continua- 
tion of New Testament tradition. We may now present 
certain of the data which tend to verify this supposition, 
and by means of them we shall be led to realize how funda- 
mentally such an animistic practice as exorcism must have 
shaped the Fairy-Faith of the Celts, both before and after 
the coming of Christianity. 

' Once upon a time/ so the tale runs about Patrick, * his 
foster-mother went to milk the cow. He also went with her 
to drink a draught of new milk. Then the cow goes mad in 

* Bergier, Diet, de Theol. (Paris, 1848), ii. 541-2, &c. 


the byre and killed five other kine : a demon, namely, 
entered her. There was great sadness on his foster-mother, 
and she told him to bring the kine back to life. Then he 
brought the kine to life, so that they were whole, and 
he cured the mad one. So God's name and Patrick's were 
magnified thereby.'^ On another occasion, when demons 
came to Ireland in the form of black birds, quite after the 
manner of the Irish belief that fairies assume the form of 
crows (see pp. 302-5) , the Celtic ire of Patrick was so aroused 
in trying to exorcize them out of the country that he threw 
his bell at them with such violence that it was cracked, and 
then he wept : — * Now at the end of those forty days and 
forty nights ' [of Patrick's long fast on the summit of Crua- 
chan Aigle or Croagh Patrick, Ireland's Holy Mountain] * the 
mountain was filled with black birds, so that he knew not 
heaven or earth. He sang maledictive psalms at them. 
They left him not because of this. Then his anger grew 
against them. He strikes his bell at them, so that the men 
of Ireland heard its voice, and he flung it at them, so that 
a gap broke out of it, and that [bell] is " Brigit's Gapling". 
Then Patrick weeps till his face and his chasuble in front of 
him were wet. No demon came to the land of Erin after 
that till the end of seven years and seven months and seven 
days and seven nights. Then the angel went to console 
Patrick and cleansed the chasuble, and brought white birds 
round the Rick, and they used to sing sweet melodies for 
him.'^ In Adamnan's Life ofS.Columba it is said that 'accord- 
ing to custom ', which in all probability was established in 
pagan times by the Druids and then maintained by their 
Christian descendants, it was usual to exorcize even a milk 
vessel before milking, and the milk in it afterwards.^ Thus 
Adamnan tells us that one day a youth, Columban by name, 
when he had finished milking, went to the door of St. Columba's 
cell carrying the pail full of new milk that, according to 

* W. Stokes, Tripartite Life (London, 1887), pp. 13, 115. 

" I am personally indebted to Dr. W. J. Watson, of Edinburgh, for 
having directed my attention to this curious passage, and for having 
pointed out its probable significance in relation to druidical practices. 


custom, the saint might exorcize it. When the holy man had 
made the sign of the cross in the air, the air * was greatly 
agitated, and the bar of the lid, driven through its two holes, 
was shot away to some distance ; the lid fell to the ground, 
and most of the milk was spilled on the soil.' Then the 
saint chided the youth, saying : — ' Thou hast done care- 
lessly in thy work to-day ; for thou hast not cast out the 
demon that was lurking in the bottom of the empty pail, by 
tracing on it, before pouring in the milk, the sign of the 
Lord's cross ; and now not enduring, thou seest, the virtue 
of the sign, he has quickly fled away in terror, while at the 
same time the whole of the vessel has been violently shaken, 
and the milk spilled. Bring then the pail nearer to me, that 
I may bless it.' When the half-empty pail was blessed, in 
the same moment it was refilled with milk. At another time, 
the saint, to destroy the practice of sorcery, commanded 
Silnan, a peasant sorcerer, to draw a vessel full of milk 
from a bull ; and by his diabolical art Silnan drew the milk. 
Then Columba took it and said : — * Now it shall be proved 
that this, which is supposed to be true milk, is not so, but 
is blood deprived of its colour by the fraud of demons to 
deceive men ; and straightway the milky colour was turned 
into its own proper quality, that is, into blood.' And it is 
added that * The bull also, which for the space of one hour 
was at death's door, wasting and worn by a horrible emacia- 
tion, in being sprinkled with water blessed by the Saint, 
was cured with wonderful rapidity.' ^ 

And to-day, as in the times of Patrick and Columba, 
exorcism is practised in Ireland and in the Western Hebrides 
of Scotland by the clergy of the Roman Church against 
fairies, demons, or evil spirits, when a person is possessed by 
them — that is to say, * fairy-struck,' or when they have 
entered into some house or place ; and on the Scotch main- 
land individual Protestants have been known to practise 
it. A haunted house at Balechan, Perthshire, in which 
certain members of the Psychical Research Society had 
taken up summer quarters to * investigate ', was exorcized 

* Adamnan, Life of S. Columba, B. II, cc. xvi, xvii. 


by the late Archbishop of Edinburgh, assisted by a priest 
from the Outer Isles.^ 

Among the nine orders of the Irish ecclesiastical organiza- 
tion of Patrick's time, one was composed of exorcists.^ 
The official ceremony for the ordination of an exorcist in 
the Latin Church was established by the Fourth Council of 
Carthage, and is indicated in nearly all the ancient rituals. 
It consists in the bishop giving to the candidate the book of 
exorcisms and saying as he does so : — ' Receive and under- 
stand this book, and have the power of laying hands upon 
demoniacs, whether they be baptized, or whether they be 
catechumens.' ^ By a decree of the Church Council of 
Orange, making men possessed of a demon ineligible to 
enter the priesthood, it would seem that the number of 
demoniacs must have been very great.^ As to the efficacy 
of exorcisms, the church Fathers during the first four cen- 
turies, when the Platonic philosophy was most influential in 
Christianity, are agreed.^ 

In estimating the shaping influences, designated by us 
as fundamental, which undoubtedly were exerted upon the 
Fairy-Faith through the practice of exorcism, it is necessary 
to realize that this animistic practice holds a very important 
position in the Christian religion which for centuries the 
Celtic peoples have professed. One of the two chief sacra- 
ments of Christianity, that of Baptism, is preceded by 
a definitely recognized exorcism, as shown in the Roman 
Ritual, where we can best study it. In the Exhortation 
preceding the rite the infant is called a slave of the demon, 
and by baptism is to be set free. The salt which is placed 
in the mouth of the infant by the priest during the ceremony 
has first been exorcized by special rites. Then there follows 
before the entrance to the baptismal font a regular exorcism 
pronounced over the child : the priest taking some of his 
own saliva on the thumb of his right hand, touches the child's 

1 For this fact I am personally indebted to Mrs. W. J. Watson, of Edin- 

* Stokes, Tripartite Life, pp. clxxx, 303, 305 ; from Book of Armagh^ 
fo. 9, A 2, and fo. 9, B 2. 

' Bergier, Diet, de T heol., ii. 545, 431, 233. 


ears and nostrils, and commands the demon to depart out 
of the child. After this part of the ceremony is finished, 
the priest makes on the child's forehead a sign of the cross 
with holy oil. Finally, in due order, comes the actual bap- 
tism.i And even after baptismal rites have expelled all 
possessing demons, precautions are necessary against a re- 
possession : St. Augustine has said that exorcisms of pre- 
caution ought to be performed over every Christian daily ; 
and it appears that faithful Roman Catholics who each day 
employ holy water in making the sign of the cross, and all 
Protestants who pray ' lead us not into temptation, but 
deliver us from evil ', are employing such exorcisms : ^ 
St. Gregory of Nazianzus writes, * Arm yourself with the 
sign of the cross which the demons fear, and before which 
they take their flight ' ^ ; and by the same sign, said St. 
Athanasius, ' All the illusions of the demon are dissipated 
and all his snares destroyed.' * An eminent Catholic theo- 
logian asserts that saints who, since the time of Jesus Christ, 
have been endowed with the power of working miracles, 
have always made use of the sign of the cross in driving out 
demons, in curing maladies, and in raising the dead. In 
the Instruction sur le Rituel,^ it is said that water which 
has been blessed is particularly designed to be used against 
demons ; in the Apostolic Constitutions, formulated near the 
end of the fourth century, holy water is designated as 
a means of purification from sin and of putting the demon 
to flight.^ And nowadays when the priest passes through 
his congregation casting over them holy water, it is as an 
exorcism of precaution ; or when as in France each mourner 

^ See Instruction sur le Rituel, par I'Eveque de Toulon, iii. 1-16. ' In 
the Greek rite (of baptism), the priest breathes thrice on the catechumen's 
mouth, forehead, and breast, praying that every unclean spirit may be 
expelled.' — W. Bright, Canons of First Four General Councils (Oxford, 
1892), p. 122. 

» Cf. Godescard, Vies des Saints (Paris, 1835), xiii. 254-66. 

» De Incarnatione Verbi (ed. Ben.), i. 88 ; cf. Godescard, op. cit., xiii. 

* Godescard, Vies des Saints, xiii. 263-4. 

■^ Par Joly de Choin, 6veque de Toulon, i. 639. 

* Bergier, Diet, de Theol., ii. 335. 


at a grave casts holy water over the corpse, it is undoubtedly 
— whether done consciously as such or not — to protect the 
soul of the deceased from demons who are held to have as 
great power over the dead as over the living. Other forms 
of exorcism, too, are employed. For example, in the Lehar 
Brecc, it is said of the Holy Scripture that ' By it the snares 
of devils and vices are expelled from every faithful one in 
the Church '.^ And from all this direct testimony it seems 
to be clear that many of the chief practices of Christians 
are exorcisms, so that, like the religion of Zoroaster, the reli- 
gion founded by Jesus has come to rest, at least in part, 
upon the basic recognition of an eternal warfare between 
good and bad spirits for the control of Man. 

The curing of diseases through Christian exorcism is by 
no means rare now, and it was common a few centuries ago. 
Thus in the eighteenth century, beginning with 1752 and 
till his death, Gassner, a Roman priest of Closterle, diocese 
of Coire, Switzerland, devoted his life to curing people 
of possessions, declaring that one third of all maladies are 
so caused, and fixed his head-quarters at Elwangen, and 
later at Ratisbon. His fame spread over many countries 
of Europe, and he is said to have made ten thousand cures 
solely by exorcism. ^ And not only are human ills overcome 
by exorcism, but also the maladies of beasts : at Carnac, on 
September 13, there continues to be celebrated an annual fete 
in honour of St. Cornely, the patron saint of the country and 
the saint who (as his name seems to suggest) presides over 
domestic horned animals ; and if there is a cow, or even a sheep 
suffering from some ailment which will not yield to medicine, 
its owner leads it to the church door beneath the saint's 
statue, and the priest blesses it, and, as he does so, casts 
over it the exorcizing holy water. The Church Ritual desig- 
nates two forms of Benediction for such animals, one form 
for those who are ordinarily diseased, and another for those 
suffering from some contagious malady. In each ceremony 
there comes first the sprinkling of the animal with holy 

' Stokes, Tripartite Life, Intro., p. 162. 

' J. E. Mirville, Des Esprits (Paris, 1853), i. 475. 


water as it stands before the priest at the church door ; and 
then there follows in Latin a direct invocation to God to 
bless the animal, * to extinguish in it all diabolical powers/ 
to defend its life, and to restore it to health.^ 

In 1868, according to Dr. Evans, an old cow-house in 
North Wales was torn down, and in its walls was found 
a tin box containing an exorcist's formula. The box and 
its enclosed manuscript had been hidden there some years 
previously to ward off all evil spirits and witchcraft, for 
evidently the cattle had been dying of some strange malady 
which no doctors could cure, Because of its unique nature, 
and as an illustration of what Welsh exorcisms must have 
been like, we quote the contents of the manuscripts both as 
to spelling and punctuation as checked by Sir John Rhys 
with the original, except the undecipherable symbols which 
come after the archangels' names : — 

* »i< Lignum sanctae crusis defendat me a malis presentibus 
preateritus & futuris ; interioribus & exterioribus >J< >t* 
Daniel Evans f^ >i< Omnes spiritus laudet Dominum : Mosen 
habent & prophetas. Exergat Deus & disipenture inimi- 
ciessus >}< • >I< O Lord Jesus Christ I beseech thee to preserve 
me Daniel Evans ; and all that I possess from the power 
of all evil men, women ; spirits, or wizards, or hardness of 
heart, and this I will trust thou will do by the same power 
as thou didst cause the blind to see the lame to walk and 
they that were possesed with unclean spirits to be in their 
own minds Amen Amen >I**I«»i*>I< pater pater pater Noster 
Noster Noster aia aia aia Jesus >I< Christus >I* Messyas ^ 
Emmanuel »I* Soter »I« Sabaoth >I« Elohim »I< on ►!< Adonay 
^ Tetragrammaton »I< Ag : : >I< Panthon ►!«... reaton 
1^ Agios ^ Jasper \^ Melchor >I< Balthasar Amen ►I<>J<4< 
•X-V-X-?-X-5At?A^ a®.© ^1/ -^©^^ And by 
the power of our Lord Jesus Christ and His Hevenly Angels 
Gabriel [ symbols ] being our Redeemer and Saviour from 
Michail[ symbols ] aU witchcraft and from assaults of the 

Devil Amen ►i* O Lord Jesus Christ 
I beseech thee to preserve me and all that I possess from 

1 Instructions sur le Rituel, par Joly de ChcMn, iii. 276-7. 


the power of all evil men ; women ; spirits ; or wizards 
past, present, or to come inward and outward Amen >I< >I«.'^ 

From India Mr. W. Crooke reports similar exorcisms and 
charms to cure and to protect cattle.^ Thus there is em- 
ployed in Northern India the Ajaypdl jantra, i. e. ' the charm 
of the Invincible Protector,' one of Vishnu's titles, in his 
character as the earth-god Bhumiya — in Scotland it would 
be the charm of the Invincible Fairy who presides over the 
flocks and to whom libations are poured — in order to exor- 
cize diseased cattle or else to prevent cattle from becoming 
diseased. This Ajaypal jantra is a rope of twisted straw, in 
which chips of wood are inserted. * In the centre of the 
rope is suspended an earthen platter, inside which an incan- 
tation is inscribed with charcoal, and beside it is hung a 
bag containing seven kinds of grain.' The rope is stretched 
between two poles at the entrance of a village, and under it 
the cattle pass to and fro from pasture. The following is 
the incantation found on one of the earthen saucers : — * O 
Lord of the Earth on which this cattle-pen stands, protect 
the cattle from death and disease ! I know of none, save thee, 
who can deliver them.' In the Morbihan, Lower Brittany, 
we seem to see the same folk-custom, somewhat changed to 
be sure ; for on St. John's Day, the christianized pagan sun- 
festival in honour of the summer solstice, in which fairies 
and spirits play so prominent a part in all Celtic countries, 
just outside a country village a great fire is lit in the centre 
of the main road and covered over with green branches, 
in order to produce plenty of smoke, and then on either 
side of this fire and through the exorcizing smoke are made 
to pass all the domestic animals in the district as a protec- 
tion against disease and evil spirits, to secure their fruitful 
increase, and, in the case of cows, abundant milk supply. 
Mr. Milne, while making excavations in the Carnac country, 
discovered the image of a small bronze cow, now in the 
Carnac Museum, and this would seem to indicate that before 
Christian times there was in the Morbihan a cult of cattle, 

1 G. Evans, Exorcism in Wales, in Folk-Lore, iii. 274-7. 
* W. Crooke, in Folk-Lore, xiii. 189-90. 



\ • 


preserved even until now, no doubt, in the Christian fete of 
St. Cornely, just as in St. Cornely's Fountain there is pre- 
served a pagan holy well. 

It ought now to be clear that both pre-Christian and 
Christian exorcisms among Celts have shaped the Fairy- 
Faith in a very fundamental manner. And anthropologically 
the whole subject of exorcism falls in line with the Psycho- 
logical Theory of the nature and origin of the belief in 
fairies in Celtic countries. 


We find that taboos, or prohibitions of a religious and 
social character, are as common in the living Fairy-Faith 
as exorcisms. The chief one is the taboo against naming 
the fairies, which inevitably results in the use of euphemisms, 
such as ' good people ', * gentry ', * people of peace ', Tylwyth 
Teg (' Fair Folk '), or bonnes dames (' good ladies '). A like 
sort of taboo, with its accompanying use of euphemisms, 
existed among the Ancients, e.g. among the Egyptians and 
Babylonians, and early Celts as well, in a highly developed 
form ; and it exists now among the native peoples of Aus- 
tralia, Polynesia, Central Africa, America, in Indian systems 
of Yoga, among modern Greeks, and, in fact, almost every- 
where where there are vestiges of a primitive culture.^ And 
almost always such a taboo is bound up with animistic and 
magical elements, which seem to form its background, just 
as it is in our own evidence. 

To discuss name taboo in all its aspects would lead us 
more deeply into magic and comparative folk-lore than we 
have yet gone, and such discussion is unnecessary here. 
We may therefore briefly state that the root of the matter 
would seem to be that the name and the dread power named 
are so closely associated in the very concrete thought of the 
primitive culture that the one virtually is the other : just 
as one inevitably calls up the other for the modern thinker, 

^ For ancient usages see F. Lenormant, Chaldean Magic (London, 1^7 7)> 
pp. 103-4 ; lamblichus and other Neo-Platonists ; and for modern usages 
see Marett, Threshold of Religion^ chap. iii. 


so it is that, in the world of objective fact, for the primitive 
philosopher the one is equivalent to the other. The primitive 
man, in short, has projected his subjective associations into 
reality. As regards euphemisms, the process of develop- 
ment possibly is that first you employ any substitute 
name, and that secondly you go on to employ such a sub- 
stitute name as will at the same time be conciliatory. In 
the latter case, a certain anthropomorphosing of the power 
behind the taboo would seem to be involved.^ 

Next in prominence comes the food taboo ; and to this, 
also, there are non-Celtic parallels all the world over, now and 
in ancient times. We may take notice of three very striking 
modern parallels : — A woman visited her dead brother in 
Panoi, the Polynesian Otherworld, and ' he cautioned her to 
eat nothing there, and she returned '.^ A Red Man, Ahak- 
tah, after an apparent death of two days' duration, revived, 
and declared that he had been to a beautiful land of tall 
trees and singing-birds, where he met the spirits of his fore- 
fathers and uncle. While there, he felt hunger, and seeing 
in a bark dish some wild rice, wished to eat of it, but his 
uncle would allow him none. In telling about this psychical 
adventure, Ahak-tah said : — * Had I eaten of the food of 
spirits, I never should have returned to earth.' ^ Also a New 
Zealand woman visited the Otherworld in a trance, and her 
dead father whom she met there ordered her to eat no food 
in that land, so that she could return to this world to take 
care of her child.* 

All such parallels, like their equivalents in Celtic belief, 
seem to rest on this psychological and physiological con- 
ception in the folk-mind. Human food is what keeps life 
going in a human body ; fairy food is what keeps life going 
in a fairy body ; and since what a man eats makes him what 
he is physically, so eating the food of Fairyland or of the 
land of the dead will make the eater partake of the bodily 

^ Cf. Marett, Is Taboo a Negative Magic ? in The Threshold of Religion^ 
pp. 85-114. 

* Codrington, The Melanesians, p. 277. 

^ Eastman, Dacotah, p. 177 ; cf. Tylor, Prim. Cult.* ii. 52 n. 

* Shortland, Trad. 0/ New Zeal., p. 150 ; cf. Tylor, op. cit., ii. 51-2. 



nature of the beings it nourishes. Hence when a man or 
woman has once entered into such relation or communion 
with the Otherworld of the dead, or of fairies, by eating their 
food, his or her physical body ^ by a subtle transformation 
adjusts itself to the new kind of nourishment, and becomes 
spiritual like a spirit's or fairy's body, so that the eater 
cannot re-enter the world of the living. A study of food 
taboos confirms this conclusion.^ 

A third prominent taboo, the iron taboo, has been ex- 
plained by exponents of the Pygmy Theory as pointing to 
a prehistoric race in Celtic lands who did not know iron 
familiarly, and hence venerated it so that in time it came 
to be religiously regarded as very efficacious against spirits 
and fairies. Undoubtedly there may be much reason in this 
explanation, which gives some ethnological support to the 
Pygmy Theory. Apparently, however, it is only a partial 
explanation of iron taboo in general, because, in many cases, 
iron in ancient religious rites certainly had magical pro- 
perties attributed to it, which to us are quite unexplainable 
from this ethnological point of view ; ^ and in Melanesia and 
in Africa, where iron is venerated now, the same explanation 
through ethnology seems far-fetched. But at present there 
seem to be no available data to explain adequately this iron 
taboo, though we have strong reasons for thinking that the 
philosophy underlying it is based on mystical conceptions 
of virtues attributed — reasonably or unreasonably — to 
various metals and precious stones, and that a careful 
examination of alchemical sciences would probably arrive 
at an explanation wholly psychological. 

Besides many other miscellaneous taboos noticeable in 

1 Precisely like Celtic peasants, primitive peoples often fail to take 
into account the fact that the physical body is in reality left behind upon 
entering the trance state of consciousness known to them as the world of 
the departed and of fairies, because there they seem still to have a body, 
the ghost body, which to their minds, in such a state, is undistinguishable 
from the physical body. Therefore they ordinarily believe that the body 
and soul both are taken. 

* Frazer, Golden Bough,* passim. 

» Cf. ib., i. 344 ft., 348 ; iii. 390. 

CH. Ill TABOOS 277 

the evidence, there is a place taboo which is prominent. 
Thus, if an Irishman cuts a thorn tree growing on a spot 
sacred to the fairies, or if he violates a fairy preserve of any 
sort, such as a fairy path, or by accident interferes with 
a fairy procession, illness and possibly death will come to his 
cattle or even to himself. In the same way, in Melanesia, 
violations of sacred spots bring like penalties : * A man 
planted in the bush near Olevuga some coco-nut and almond 
trees, and not long after died,' the place being a spirit pre- 
serve ; ^ and a man in the Lepers' Island lost his senses, 
because, as the natives believed, he had unwittingly trodden 
on ground sacred to Tagaro, and ' the ghost of the man 
who lately sacrificed there was angry with him'.^ In this 
case the wizards were called in and cured the man by 
exorcisms,^ as Irishmen, or their cows, are cured by the 
exorcisms of ' fairy-doctors ' when * fairy-struck ' for some 
similar violation. The animistic background of place taboos 
in the Fairy-Faith is in these cases apparent. 

Among Ancient Celts 

In the evidence soon to be examined from tKe recorded 
Fairy-Faith, we shall find taboos of various kinds often more 
prominent than in the living Fairy-Faith. ^ So essential are 
they to the character of much of the literary and mytho- 
logical matter with which we shall have to deal in the follow- 
ing chapters, that at this point some suggestions ought to be 
made concerning their correct anthropological interpretation. 

Almost every ancient Irish taboo is connected with a king 
or with a great hero like Cuchulainn ; and, in Ireland 
especially, all such kings and heroes were considered of 
divine origin, and as direct incarnations, or reincarnations 
of the Tuatha De Danann, the true Fairies, originally in- 
habitants of the Otherworld. (See our chapter vii.) As 
Dr. Frazer points out to have been the case among non- 
Celts, with whom the same theory of incarnated divinities 
has prevailed, royal taboos are to isolate the king from all 

* Codrington, The Melanesians, pp. 177, 218-9. 

* Cf. Eleanor Hull, Old Irish Tabus or Geasa, in Folk-Lore, xii. 41 ff. 


sources of danger, especially from all magic and witchcraft, 
and they act in many cases ' so to say, as electrical insu- 
lators ' to preserve him or heroes who are equally divine.^ 

The early Celts recognized an intimate relationship 
between man and nature : unperceived by man, unseen 
forces — not dissimilar to what Melanesians call Mana — 
(looked on as animate and intelligent and frequently indi- 
vidual entities) guided every act of human life. It was the 
special duty of Druids to act as intermediaries between the 
world of men and the world of the Tuatha De Danann ; 
and, as old Irish literature indicates clearly, it was through 
the exercise of powers of divination on the part of Druids 
that these declared what was taboo or what was unfavour- 
able, and also what it was favourable for the divine king or 
hero to perform. As long as man kept himself in harmony 
with this unseen fairy-world in the background of nature, 
all was well ; but as soon as a taboo was broken, disharmony 
in the relationship — which was focused in a king or hero — 
was set up ; and when, as in the case of Cuchulainn, many 
taboos were violated, death was inevitable and not even 
the Tuatha De Danann could intercede. 

Breaking of a royal or hero taboo not only affects the 
violator, but his subjects or followers as well : in some cases 
the king seems to suffer vicariously for his people. Almost 
every great Gaelic hero — a god or Great Fairy Being incar- 
nate — is overshadowed with an impending fate, which only 
the strictest observance of taboo can a void. ^ 

Irish taboo, and inferentially all Celtic taboo, dates back 
to an unknown pagan antiquity. It is imposed at or before 
birth, or again during life, usually at some critical period, 
and when broken brings disaster and death to the breaker. 
Its whole background appears to rest on a supernatural 
relationship between divine men and the Otherworld of the 
Tuatha De Danann ; and it is very certain that this ancient 
relationship survives in the living Fairy-Faith as one between 

1 Cf, Frazer, Golden Bough,^ i. 233 £f., 343. 

* Cf. E. J. Gwynn, On the Idea of Fate in Irish Literature, in Journ. 
Ivernian Society (Cork), April 19 10. 


ordinary men and the fairy-world. Therefore, almost all 
taboos surviving among Celts ought to be interpreted 
psychologically or even psychically, and not as ordinary 
social regulations. 


Food-sacrifice plays a very important role in the modern 
Fairy-Faith, being still practised, as our evidence shows, in 
each one of the Celtic countries. Without any doubt it is 
a survival from pagan times, when, as we shall observe later 
(in chapter iv. 291, and elsewhere), propitiatory offerings 
were regularly made to the Tuatha De Danann as gods of the 
earth, and, apparently, to other orders of spiritual beings. 
The anthropological significance of such food-sacrifice is 

With the same propitiatory ends in view as modern Celts 
now have in offering food to fairies, ancient peoples, e.g. the 
Greeks and Romans, maintained a state ritual of sacrifices 
to the gods, genii, daemons, and to the dead. And such 
sacrifices, so essential a part of most ancient religions, were 
based on the belief, as stated by Porphyry in his Treatise 
Concerning Abstinence, that all the various orders of gods, 
genii or daemons, enjoy as nourishment the odour of burnt 
offerings. And like the Fairy-Folk, the daemons of the air 
live not on the gross substance of food, but on its finer 
invisible essences, conveyed to them most easily on the 
altar-fire.^ Socrates, Plato, Xenophon, and other leading 
Greeks, as well as the Romans of a like metaphysical' school, 
unite in declaring the fundamental importance to the wel- 
fare of the State of regular sacrifices to the gods and to the 
daemons who control all natural phenomena, since they 
caused, if not neglected, abundant harvests and national 
prosperity. For unto the gods is due by right a part of all 
things which they give to man for his happiness. 

1 Cf. our evidence, pp. 38, 44 ; also Kirk's Secret Commonwealth (c. i), 
where it is said of the ' good people ' or fairies that their bodies are so 
' plyable thorough the Subtilty of the Spirits that agitate them, that they 
can make them appear or disappear att Pleasure. Some have Bodies or 
Vehicles so spungious, thin, and delecat, that they are fed by only sucking 
into some fine spirituous Liquors, that pierce lyke pure Air and Oyl '. 


The relation which the worship of ancestors held to that 
of the gods above, who are the Olympian Gods, the great 
Gods, and to the Gods below, who are the Gods of the Dead, 
and also to the daemons, and heroes or divine ancestors, is 
thus set forth by Plato in his Laws : — * In the first place, we 
affirm that next after the Olympian Gods, and the Gods of 
the State, honour should be given to the Gods below. . . . 
Next to these Gods, a wise man will do service to the 
daemons or spirits, and then to the heroes, and after them 
will follow the sacred places of private and ancestral Gods, 
having their ritual according to law. Next comes the honour 
of living parents.' ^ 

It is evident from this direct testimony that the same sort 
of philosophy underlies food-sacrifice among the Celts and 
other peoples as we discovered underlying human-sacrifice, 
in our study of the Changeling Belief ; and that the Tuatha 
De Danann in their true mythological nature, and fairies, 
their modern counterpart, correspond in all essentials to 
Greek and Roman gods, genii, and daemons, and are often 
confused with the dead. 

The Celtic Legend of the Dead 

The animistic character of the Celtic Legend of the 
Dead is apparent ; and the striking likenesses constantly 
appearing in our evidence between the ordinary apparitional 
fairies and the ghosts of the dead show that there is often 
no essential and sometimes no distinguishable difference 
between these two orders of beings, nor between the world 
of the dead and fairyland. We reserve for our chapter on 
Science and Fairies the scientific consideration of the psycho- 
logy of this relationship, and of the probability that fairies 
as souls of the dead and as ghosts of the dead actually exist 
and influence the living. 

General Conclusion 

The chief anthropological problems connected with the 
modern Fairy-Faith, as our evidence presents it, have now 

* Laws, iv ; cf. Jowett, Dialogues of Plato, v. 282-90. 


been examined, at sufficient length, we trust, to explain 
their essential significance ; and problems, to some extent 
parallel, connected with the ancient Fairy-Faith have like- 
wise been examined. There remain, however, very many 
minor anthropological problems not yet touched upon ; but 
several of the most important of these, e. g. various cults 
of gods, spirits, fairies, and the dead, and folk-festivals 
thereto related (see Section III) ; the circular fairy-dance 
(see pp. 405-6) ; or the fairy world as the Other world (see 
chap, vi), or as Purgatory (see chap, x), will receive con- 
sideration in following chapters, and so will certain very 
definite psychological problems connected with dreams, and 
trance-like states, with supernormal lapse of time, and with 
seership. We may now sum up the results so far attained. 

Whether we examine the Fairy-Faith as a whole or whether 
we examine specialized parts of it like those relating to the 
smallness of fairies, to changelings, to witchcraft and magic, 
to exorcisms, to taboos, and to food-sacrifice, in all cases 
comparative folk-lore shows that the beliefs composing 
it find their parallels the world over, and that fairy-like 
beings are objects of belief now not only in Celtic countries, 
but in Central Australia, throughout Polynesia, in Africa, 
among American Red Men, in Asia generally, in Southern, 
Western, and Northern Europe, and, in fact, wherever 
civilized and primitive men hold religious beliefs. From 
a rationalist point of view anthropologists would be inclined 
to regard the bulk of this widespread belief in spiritual 
beings as being purely mythical, but for us to do so and 
stop there would lead to no satisfactory solution : the origin 
of myth itself needs to be explained, and one of the chief • 
objects of our study throughout the remainder of this book « 
is to make an attempt at such an explanation, especially of • 
Celtic myth. * 

Again, if we examine all fairy-like beings from a certain 
superficial point of view, or even from the mythological point 
of view, it is easy to discern that they are universally credited 
with precisely the same characters, attributes, actions, or 
powers as the particular peoples possess who have faith in 


them ; and then the further fact emerges that this anthropo- 
morphosing is due directly to the more immediate social 
environment : we see merely an anthropomorphically 
coloured picture of the whole of an age-long social evolu- 
tion of the tribe, race, or nation who have fostered the 
particular aspect of this one world-wide folk-religion. But 
if we look still deeper, we discover as background to the 
myths and the social psychology a profound animism. This 
animism appears in its own environment in the shading away 
of the different fairy-like beings into spirits and ghosts of 
the departed. Going deeper yet, we find that such animistic » 
beliefs as concern themselves exclusively with the realm of * 
the dead are in many cases apparently so well founded on ' 
definite provable psychical experiences on the part of living ' 
men and women that the aid of science itself must be called ' 
in to explain them, and this will be done in our chapter ' 
entitled Science and, Fairies. 

So far it ought to be clear that already our evidence 
points to a very respectable residue in the experiences of 
percipients, which cannot be explained away — as can the 
larger mass of the evidence — as due to ethnological, anthropo- 
morphic, naturalistic, or sociological influences on the Celtic 
mind ; and for the present this must be designated as the 
X or unknown quantity in the Fairy-Faith. In chapter xi 
this X quantity, augmented by whatever else is to be elicited 
from further evidence, will be specifically discussed. 

These points of view derived from our anthropological 
examination of the chief parts of the evidence presented 
by the living Fairy-Faith will be kept constantly before us 
as we proceed further ; and what has been demonstrated 
anthropologically in this chapter will serve to interpret what 
is to follow until chapter xi is reached. With this tentative 
position we pass to Section II of this study, and shall there 
begin to examine, as we have just done with their modern 
Fairy-Faith, the ancient Fairy-Faith of the Celts. 



Danana) or THE SIDHE (pronounced S/j^es) ^ 

' So firm was the hold which the ethnic gods of Ireland had taken upon 
the imagination and spiritual sensibilities of our ancestors that even the 
monks and christianized bards never thought of denying them. They 
doubtless forbade the people to worship them, but to root out the belief 
in their existence was so impossible that they could not even dispossess 
their own minds of the conviction that the gods were real supernatural 
beings.' — Standish O'Grady. 

The Goddess Dana and the modern cult of St. Brigit — The Tuatha De 
Danann or Sidhe conquered by the Sons of Mil — But Irish seers still 
see the Sidhe — Old Irish MSS. faithfully represent the Tuatha De 
Danann — The Sidhe as a spirit race — Sidhe palaces — The * Taking ' 
of mortals — Hill visions of Sidhe women — Sidhe minstrels and musicians 
— Social organization and warfare among the Sidhe — The Sidhe war- 
goddesses, the Badb — The Sidhe at the Battle of Clontarf, A. d. 1014 — 

The People of the Goddess Dana, or, according to D'Arbois 
de Jubainville, the People of the god whose mother was 

* Chief general references : Le Cycle Mythologique Irlandais (Paris, 1884) 
and UEpopee celtique en Irlande (Paris, 1892) — both by H. D'Arbois de 
Jubainville. Chief sources : The Book of Armagh, a collection of ecclesias- 
tical MSS. probably written at Armagh, and finished in A. d. 807 by the 
learned scribe Ferdomnach of Armagh ; the Leabhar na h-Uidhre or ' Book 
of the Dun Cow ', the most ancient of the great collections of MSS. 
containing the old Irish romances, compiled about a. d. i 100 in the 
monastery of Clonmacnoise ; the Book of Leinster, a twelfth-century MS. 
compiled by Finn Mac Gorman, Bishop of Kildare ; the Yellow Book of 
Lecan (fifteenth century) ; and the Book of Lismore, an old Irish MS. found 
in 18 14 by workmen while making repairs in the castle of Lismore, and 
thought to be of the fifteenth century. The Book of Lismore contains the 
Agallamh na senorach or ' Colloquy of the Ancients ', which has been edited 
by S. H. O'Grady in his Silva Gadelica (London, 1892), and by Whitley 
Stokes, Ir. Texte, iv. i. For additional texts and editions of texts see 
Notes by R. I. Best to his translations of Le Cycle Mythologique Irlandais 
(Dublin, 1903). 


called Dana,^ are the Tuatha De Danann of the ancient 
mythology of Ireland. The Goddess Dana, called in the geni- 
tive Danand, in middle Irish times was named Brigit.^ And 
this goddess Brigit of the pagan Celts has been supplanted by 
the Christian St. Brigit ^ ; and, in exactly the same way 
as the pagan cult once bestowed on the spirits in wells 
and fountains has been transferred to Christian saints, to 
whom the wells and fountains have been re-dedicated, so to 
St. Brigit as a national saint has been transferred the pagan 
cult rendered to her predecessor. Thus even yet, as in the 
case of the minor divinities of their sacred fountains, the 
Irish people through their veneration for the good St. Brigit, 
render homage to the divine mother of the People who bear 
her name Dana, — who are the ever-living invisible Fairy- 
People of modern Ireland. For when the Sons of Mil, the 
ancestors of the Irish people, came to Ireland they found 
the Tuatha De Danann in full possession of the country. The 
Tuatha De Danann then retired before the invaders, without, 
however, giving up their sacred Island. Assuming invisi- 
bility, with the power of at any time reappearing in a human- 
like form before the children of the Sons of Mil, the People 
of the Goddess Dana became and are the Fairy-Folk, the 
Sidhe of Irish mythology and romance. ^ Therefore it is that 
to-day Ireland contains two races, — a race visible which we 
call Celts, and a race invisible which we call Fairies. Between 
these two races there is constant intercourse even now ; for 
Irish seers say that they can behold the majestic, beautiful 
Sidhe, and according to them the Sidhe are a race quite 
distinct from our own, just as living and possibly more power- 
ful. These Sidhe (who are the ' gentry ' of the Ben Bulbin 
country and have kindred elsewhere in Ireland, Scotland, 

* Cf. Le Cycle Myth. Irl., pp. 144-5. 

^ Cf. Le Cycle Myth. Irl., pp. 266-7. From the way they are described 
in many of the old Irish manuscripts, we may possibly regard the Tuatha 
De Danann as reflecting to some extent the characteristics of an early 
human population in Ireland. In other words, on an already flourishing 
belief in spiritual beings, known as the Sidhe, was superimposed, through 
anthropomorphism, an Irish folk-memory about a conquered pre-Celtic 
race of men who claimed descent from a mother goddess called Dana. 


and probably in most other countries as well, such as the 
invisible races of the Yosemite Valley) have been de- 
scribed more or less accurately by our peasant seer-witnesses 
from County Sligo and from North and East Ireland. But 
there are other and probably more reliable seers in Ireland, 
men of greater education and greater psychical experience, 
who know and describe the Sidhe races as they really are, 
and who even sketch their likenesses. And to such seer 
Celts as these, Death is a passport to the world of the Sidhe, 
a world where there is eternal youth and never-ending joy, 
as we shall learn when we study it as the Celtic Otherworld. 
The recorded mythology and literature of ancient Ireland 
have, very faithfully for the most part, preserved to us clear 
pictures of the Tuatha De Danann; so that disregarding 
some Christian influence in the texts of certain manuscripts, 
much rationalization, and a good deal of poetical colouring 
and romantic imagination in the pictures, we can easily 
describe the People of the Goddess Dana as they appeared 
in pagan days, when they were more frequently seen by 
mortals than now. Perhaps the Irish folk of the olden times 
were even more clairvoyant and spiritual-minded than the 
Irish folk of to-day. So by drawing upon these written 
records let us try to understand what sort of beings the 
Sidhe were and are. 

Nature of the Sidhe 

In the Book of Leinster ^ the poem of Eochaid records that 
the Tuatha De Danann, the conquerors of the Fir-Bolgs, 
were hosts of siahra ; and siahra is an Old Irish word 
meaning fairies, sprites, or ghosts. The word fairies is 
appropriate if restricted to mean fairies like the modern 
* gentry ' ; but the word ghosts is inappropriate, because 
our evidence shows that the only relation the Sidhe or real 
Fairies hold to ghosts is a superficial one, the Sidhe and 
ghosts being alike only in respect to invisibility. In the 
two chief Irish MSS., the Book of the Dun Cow and the Book 
of Leinster, the Tuatha De Danann are described as ' gods 

^ Page 10, col. 2, 11. 6-8 ; cf. Le Cycle Myth. Itl., p. 143. 


and not-gods * ; and Sir John Rhys considers this an ancient 
formula comparable with the Sanskrit deva and adeva, 
but not with * poets (dee) and husbandmen [an dee) * as 
the author of C6ir Anmann learnedly guessed.^ It is also 
said, in the Book of the Dun Cow, that wise men do not 
know the origin of the Tuatha De Danann, but that ' it seems 
likely to them that they came from heaven, on account of 
their intelligence and for the excellence of their know- 
ledge '.2 The hold of the Tuatha De Danann on the Irish 
mind and spirit was so strong that even Christian tran- 
scribers of texts could not deny their existence as a non- 
human race of intelligent beings inhabiting Ireland, even 
though they frequently misrepresented them by placing 
them on the level of evil demons,^ as the ending of the story 
of the Sick-Bed of Cuchulainn illustrates : — ' So that this 
was a vision to Cuchulainn of being stricken by the people 
of the Sid : for the demoniac power was great before the 
faith ; and such was its greatness that the demons used to 
fight bodily against mortals, and they used to show them 
delights and secrets of how they would be in immortality. 
It was thus they used to be believed in. So it is to such 
phantoms the ignorant apply the names of Side and Aes 
Side.' ^ A passage in the Silva Gadelica (ii. 202-3) not 
only tends to confirm this last statement, but it also shows 
that the Irish people made a clear distinction between the 
god-race and our own : — In The Colloquy with the Ancients, 
as St. Patrick and Caeilte are talking with one another, 

* a lone woman robed in mantle of green, a smock of soft 
silk being next her skin, and on her forehead a glittering 
plate of yellow gold/ came to them ; and when Patrick 
asked from whence she came, she replied : ' Out of uaimh 
Chruachna, or " the cave of Cruachan ".' Caeilte then asked : 

* Woman, my soul, who art thou ? ' * I am Scothniamh or 
** Flower-lustre ", daughter of the Daghda's son Bodhb derg.' 
Caeilte proceeded : * And what started thee hither ? ' * To 

^ Rhys, Hib. Led., p. 581 n. ; and C6if Anmann, in Ir. Texte, III, ii. 355. 
^ Kuno Meyer's trans, in Voy. of Bran, ii. 300. 

' Cf. Standish O'Grady, Early Bardic Literature (London, 1879), pp. 65-6. 
* L. U. ; cf. A. Nutt, Voy. of Bran, i. 157-8. 


require of thee my marriage-gift, because once upon a time 
thou promisedst me such.' And as they parleyed Patrick 
broke in with : * It is a wonder to us how we see you two : 
the girl young and invested with all comeliness ; but thou 
Caeilte, a withered ancient, bent in the back and dingily 
grown grey/ * Which is no wonder at all,' said Caeilte, 
* for no people of one generation or of one time are we : she^ 
is of the Tuatha De Danann, who are unfading and whose 
duration is perennial ; I am of the so7ts of Milesius, that are 
perishable and fade away.' The exact distinction is between 
Caeilte, a withered old ancient — in most ways to be regarded 
as a ghost called up that Patrick may question him about 
the past history of Ireland — and a fairy- woman who is one 
of the Sidhe or Tuatha De Danann.^ 

In two of the more ancient Irish texts, the Echtra Nerai ^ 
or * Expedition of Nera ', a preliminary tale in the introduc- 
tion to the Tain ho Cuailnge or * Theft of the Cattle of 
Cuailnge ' ; and a passage from the Togail Bruidne da 
Derga, or * Destruction of Da Derga's Hostel ', ^ there seems 

* Before Caeilte appears, Patrick is chanting Mass and pronouncing 
benediction * on the rath in which Finn Mac Cumall (the slain leader of 
the Fianna) has been : the rath of Drumderg '. This chanting and bene- 
diction act magically as a means of calling up the ghosts of the other 
Fianna, for, as the text continues, thereupon ' the clerics saw Caeilte and 
his band draw near them ; and fear fell on them before the tall men with 
their huge wolf-dogs that accompanied them, for they were not people of 
one epoch or of one time with the clergy. Then Heaven's distinguished one, 
that pillar of dignity and angel on earth, Calpurn's son Patrick, apostle 
of the Gael, rose and took the aspergillum to sprinkle holy water on the 
great men ; floating over whom until that day there had been [and were 
now] a thousand legions of demons. Into the hills and " skalps ", into 
the outer borders of the region and of the country, the demons forthwith 
departed in all directions ; after which the enormous men sat down ' 
{Silva Gadelica, ii. 103). Here, undoubtedly, we observe a literary method 
of rationalizing the ghosts of the Fianna ; and their sudden and mysterious 
coming and personal aspects can be compared with the sudden and mys- 
terious coming and personal aspects of the Tuatha De Danann as recorded 
in certain Irish manuscripts. 

' Kuno Meyer's trans, in Rev. Celt., x. 214-27. This tale is probably 
as old as the ninth or tenth century, so far as its present form is concerned, 
though representing very ancient traditions (Nutt, Voy. of Bran, i. 209). 

' Stokes's trans, in Rev. Celt. xxii. 36-40. This text is one of the 
earliest with references to fairy beings, and may go back to the eighth 


no reasonable doubt whatever about the Tuatha De Danann 
or Sidhe being a race Hke what we call spirits. The first 
text describes how Ailill and Medb in their palace of 
Cruachan celebrated the feast of Samain (November Eve, 
a feast of the dead even in pre-Christian times). Two 
culprits had been executed on the day before, and their 
bodies, according to the ancient Irish custom, were left 
hanging from a tree until the night of Samain should have 
passed ; for on that night it was dangerous to touch the 
bodies of the dead while demons and the people of the 
Sidhe were at large throughout all Ireland, and mortals 
found near dead bodies at such a time were in great danger 
of being taken by these spirit hosts of the Tuatha De Danann. 
And so on this very night, when thick darkness had settled 
down, Ailill desired to test the courage of his warriors, and 
offered his own gold-hilted sword to any young man who 
would go out and tie a coil of twisted twigs around the leg 
of one of the bodies suspended from the tree. After many 
had made the attempt and failed, because unable to brave 
the legions of demons and fairies, Nera alone succeeded ; 
but his success cost him dear, for he finally fell under the 
power both of the dead man, round whose legs he had tied 
the coil, and of an elfin host : with the dead man's body on 
his back, Nera was obliged to go to a strange house that the 
thirst of the dead man might be assuaged therein ; and the 
dead man in drinking scattered * the last sip from his lips 
at the faces of the people that were in the house, so that 
they all died '. Nera carried back the body; and on return- 
ing to Cruachan he saw the fairy hosts going into the cave, 
* for the fairy-mounds of Erinn are always opened about 
Halloween.' Nera followed after them until he came to 
their king in a palace of the Tuatha De Danann, seemingly 
in the cavern or elsewhere underground ; where he remained 
and was married to one of the fairy women. She it was 
who revealed to Nera the secret hiding-place, in a mysterious 
well, of the king's golden crown, and then betrayed her 

or ninth century as a literary composition, though it too represents much 
older traditions. 


whole people by reporting to Nera the plan they had for 
attacking Ailill's court on the Halloween to come. More- 
over, Nera was permitted by his fairy wife to depart from 
the sid ; and he in taking leave of her asked : ' How will it 
be believed of me that I have gone into the sid} ' * Take 
fruits of summer with thee/ said the woman. * Then he 
took wild garlic with him and primrose and golden fern.' 
And on the following November Eve when the sid of Crua- 
chan was again open, * the men of Connaught and the black 
hosts of exile ' under Ailill and Medb plundered it, taking 
away from it the crown of Briun out of the well. But * Nera 
was left with his people in the sid, and has not come out until 
now, nor will he come till Doom.' 

All of this matter is definitely enough in line with the 
living Fairy-Faith : there is the same belief expressed as 
now about November Eve being the time of all times when 
ghosts, demons, spirits, and fairies are free, and when fairies 
take mortals and marry them to fairy women ; also the beliefs 
that fairies are living in secret places in hills, in caverns, or 
under ground — palaces full of treasure and open only on 
November Eve. In so far as the real fairies, the Sidhe, are 
concerned, they appear as the rulers of the Feast of the 
Dead or Samain, as the controllers of all spirits who are then 
at large ; and, allowing for some poetical imagination and 
much social psychology and anthropomorphism, elements 
as common in this as in most literary descriptions con- 
cerning the Tuatha De Danann, they are faithfully enough 

The second text describes how King Conaire, in riding 
along a road toward Tara, saw in front of him three strange 
horsemen, three men of the Sidhe : — * Three red frocks had 
they, and three red mantles : three red steeds they bestrode, 
and three red heads of hair were on them. Red were they 
all, both body and hair and raiment, both steeds and men/ 
* Who is it that fares before us ? ' asked Conaire. * It was 
a taboo of mine for those Three to go before me — the three 
Reds to the house of Red. Who will follow them and tell 
them to come towards me in my track ? ' * I will follow 



them/ says Le fri flaith, Conaire's son. * He goes after 
them, lashing his horse, and overtook them not. There was 
the length of a spearcast between them : but they did not 
gain upon him and he did not gain upon them.' All attempts 
to come up with the red horsemen failed. But at last, 
before they disappeared, one of the Three said to the king's 
son riding so furiously behind them, * Lo, my son, great the 
news. Weary are the steeds we ride. We ride the steeds of 
Donn Tetscorach (?) from the elf mounds. Though we are 
alive we are dead. Great are the signs : destruction of life : 
sating of ravens : feeding of crows, strife of slaughter : 
wetting of sword-edge, shields with broken bosses in hours 
after sundown. Lo, my son ! ' Then they disappear. 
When Conaire and his followers heard the message, fear fell 
upon them, and the king said : * All my taboos have seized 
me to-night, since those Three [Reds] [are the] banished 
folks (?).' In this passage we behold three horsemen of the 
Sidhe banished from their elfmound because guilty of false- 
hood. Visible for a time, they precede the king and so 
violate one of his taboos ; and then delivering their fearful 
prophecy they vanish. These three of the Tuatha De 
Danann, majestic and powerful and weird in their mystic red, 
are like the warriors of the * gentry ' seen by contemporary 
seers in West Ireland. Though dead, that is in an invisible 
world like the dead, yet they are living. It seems that in 
all three of the textual examples already cited, the scribe 
has emphasized a different element in the unique nature of 
the Tuatha De Danann. In the Colloquy it is their eternal 
youth and beauty, in the Echtra Nerai it is their supremacy 
over ghosts and demons on Samain and their power to steal 
mortals away at such a time, and in this last their respect 
for honesty. And in each case their portrayal corresponds 
to that of the * gentry ' and Sidhe by modern Irishmen ; so 
that the old Fairy-Faith and the new combine to prove the 
People of the God whose mother was Dana to have been 
and to be a race of beings who are like mortals, but not 
mortals, who to the objective world are as though dead, 
yet to the subjective world are fully living and conscious. 


O'Curry says : — * The term (sidh, pron. shee), as far as we 
know it, is always applied in old writings to the palaces, 
courts, halls, or residences of those beings which in ancient 
Gaedhelic mythology held the place which ghosts, phan- 
toms, and fairies hold in the superstitions of the present 
day.' ^ In modern Irish tradition, ' the People of the Sidhe,' 
or simply the Sidhe, refer to the beings themselves rather 
than to their places of habitation. Partly perhaps on account 
of this popular opinion that the Sidhe are a subterranean 
race, they are sometimes described as gods of the earth or 
dei terreni, as in the Book of Armagh ; and since it was 
believed that they, like the modern fairies, control the , 
ripening of crops and the milk-giving of cows, the ancient * 
Irish rendered to them regular worship and sacrifice, just ' 
as the Irish of to-day do by setting out food at night for 
the fairy-folk to eat. 

Thus after their conquest, these Sidhe or Tuatha De 
Danann in retaliation, and perhaps to show their power as , 
agricultural gods, destroyed the wheat and milk of their • 
conquerors, the Sons of Mil, as fairies to-day can do ; and • 
the Sons of Mil were constrained to make a treaty with > 
their supreme king, Dagda, who, in Cdir Anmann (§ 150), , 
is himself called an earth-god. Then when the treaty % 
was made the Sons of Mil were once more able to gather 
wheat in their fields and to drink the milk of their cows ; ^ 
and we can suppose that ever since that time their descen- 
dants, who are the people of Ireland, remembering that 
treaty, have continued to reverence the People of the » 
Goddess Dana by pouring libations of milk to them and by 
making them offerings of the fruits of the earth. 

The Palaces of the Sidhe <f 

The marvellous palaces to which the Tuatha De Danann 
retired when conquered by the race of Mil were hidden in 

* E. O'Curry, Lectures on Manuscript Materials (Dublin, 1861), p. 504. 
■ In the Booh of Leinster, pp. 245-6 ; cf. Le Cycle Myth. Irl., p. 269. 

U 2 


the depths of the earth, in hills, or under ridges more or t 
less elevated.^ At the time of their conquest, Dagda their ' 
high king made a distribution of all such palaces in his 
kingdom. He gave one sid to Lug, son of Ethne, another 
to Ogme ; and for himself retained two — one called Brug * 
na Boinne, or Castle of the Boyne, because it was situated ' 
on or near the River Boyne near Tara, and the other called 
Sid or Brug Mate ind Oc, which means Enchanted Palace or * 
Castle of the Son of the Young. And this Mac ind Oc was 
Dagda's own son by the queen Boann, according to some 
accounts, so that as the name (Son of the Young) signifies, 
Dagda and Boann, both immortals, both Tuatha De Danann, a 
were necessarily always young, never knowing the touch of ' 
disease, or decay, or old age. Not until Christianity gained • 
its psychic triumph at Tara, through the magic of Patrick 
prevailing against the magic of the Druids — who seem to 
have stood at that time as mediators between the People 
of the Goddess Dana and the pagan Irish — did the Tuatha 
De Danann lose their immortal youthfulness in the eyes of 
mortals and become subject to death. In the most ancient 
manuscripts of Ireland the pre-Christian doctrine of the 
immortality of the divine race * persisted intact and without 
restraint ' ; ^ but in the Senchus na relec or * History of 
the Cemeteries ', from the Leabhar na h-Uidhre, and in the 
Lebar gabala or ' Book of the Conquests \ from the Book 
of Leinster, it was completely changed by the Christian 

When Dagda thus distributed the underground palaces, 
Mac ind Oc, or as he was otherwise called Oengus, was absent 
and hence forgotten. So when he returned, naturally he 
complained to his father, and the Brug na Boinne, the king's 
,j own residence, was ceded to him for a night and a day, but 
Oengus maintained that it was for ever. This palace was 
a most marvellous one : it contained three trees which i 
always bore fruit, a vessel full of excellent drink, and two « 
pigs — one alive and the other nicely cooked ready to eat ^ 

* Cf. Mesca Ulad, Hennessy's ed., in Todd Lectures, Ser. i (Dublin, 1889), 
p. 2. * Cf. Le Cycle Myth. Irl., pp. 273-6. 


at any time ; and in this palace no one ever died.^ In the * 
Colloquy, Caeilte tells of a mountain containing a fairy 
palace which no man save Finn and six companions, Caeilte 
being one of these, ever entered. The Fenians, while hunt- 
ing, were led thither by a fairy woman who had changed 
her shape to that of a fawn in order to allure them ; and 
the night being wild and snowy they were glad to take 
shelter therein. Beautiful damsels and their lovers were the 
inhabitants of the palace ; in it there was music and abun- 
dance of food and drink ; and on its floor stood a chair 
of crystal.2 In another fairy palace, the enchanted cave of 
Keshcorran, Conaran, son of Imidel, a chief of the Tuatha 
De Danann, had sway ; * and so soon as he perceived that 
the hounds' cry now sounded deviously, he bade his three 
daughters (that were full of sorcery) to go and take ven- 
geance on Finn for his hunting ' ^ — just as nowadays the 
' good people ' take vengeance on one of our race if a fairy 
domain is violated. Frequently the fairy palace is under 
a lake, as in the christianized story of the Disappearance 
of Caenchomrac : — Once when ' the cleric chanted his psalms, 
he saw [come] towards him a tall man that emerged out of 
the loch : from the bottom of the water that is to say.* 
This tall man informed the cleric that he came from an under- 
water monastery, and explained ' that there should be sub- 
aqueous inhabiting by men is with God no harder than that 
they should dwell in any other place '.^ In all these ancient 
literary accounts of the S^WA^-palaces we easily recognize 
the same sort of palaces as those described to-day by Gaelic 
peasants as the habitations of the * gentry ', or * good people ', 
or * people of peace.' Such habitations are in mountain 
caverns like those of Ben Bulbin or Knock Ma, or in fairy 
hills or knolls like the Fairy-Hill at Aberfoyle on which 
Robert Kirk is believed to have been taken, or beneath lakes. 
This brings us directly to the way in which the Sidhe 
or Tuatha De Danann of the olden times took fine-looking 
young men and maidens. 

^ Cf. Le Cycle Myth. Irl.; pp. 273-6. " Cf. Silva Gadelica, ii. 222-3. 

» lb., ii. 343-7. * lb., ii. 94-6, 



Perhaps one of the earHest and most famous literary 
accounts of such a taking is that concerning Aedh, son of 
Eochaid Lethderg son of the King of Leinster, who is 
represented as contemporary with Patrick.^ While Aedh 
was enjoying a game of hurley with his boy companions near 
the sidh of Liamhain Softsmock, two of the sf^/^- women, 
who loved the young prince, very suddenly appeared, and as 
suddenly took him away with them into a fairy palace and 
kept him there three years. It happened, however, that he 
escaped at the end of that time, and, knowing the magical 
powers of Patrick, went to where the holy man was, and 
thus explained himself : — ' Against the youths my oppo- 
nents I (i. e. my side) took seven goals ; but at the last one 
that I took, here come up to me two women clad in green 
mantles : two daughters of Bodhh derg mac an Daghda, and 
their names Slad and Mumain. Either of them took me by 
a hand, and they led me off to a garish hrugh ; whereby for 
now three years my people mourn after me, the stdh-iol^ 
caring for me ever since, and until last night I got a chance 
opening to escape from the hrugh, when to the number of 
fifty lads we emerged out of the sidh and forth upon the 
green. Then it was that I considered the magnitude of that 
strait in which they of the sidh had had me, and away from 
the hrugh I came running to seek thee, holy Patrick.* ' That,' 
said the saint, ' shall be to thee a safeguard, so that neither 
their power nor their dominion shall any more prevail 
against thee.' And so when Patrick had thus made Aedh 
proof against the power of the fairy-folk, he kept him with 
him under the disguise of a travelling minstrel until, arriving 
in Leinster, he restored him to his father the king and to his 
inheritance : Aedh enters the palace in his minstrel disguise ; 
and in the presence of the royal assembly Patrick commands 
him : * Doff now once for all thy dark capacious hood, and 
well mayest thou wear thy father's spear ! ' When the lad 
removed his hood, and none there but recognized him, great 

^ Silva Gadelica, ii. 204-20. 


was the surprise. He seemed like one come back from the / 
dead, for long had his heirless father and people mourned ' 
for him. ' By our word,' exclaimed the assembly in their 
joyous excitement, * it is a good cleric's gift ! ' And the 
king said : * Holy Patrick, seeing that till this day thou hast 
nourished him and nurtured, let not the Tuatha De Danann's 
power any more prevail against the lad.' And Patrick 
answered : * That death which the King of Heaven and 
Earth hath ordained is the one that he will have.' This 
ancient legend shows clearly that the Tuatha De Danann, 
or Sidhe, in the time when the scribe wrote the Colloquy 
were thought of in the same way as now, as able to take ■■ 
beautiful mortals whom they loved, and able to confer upon 
them fairy immortality which prevented ' that death which 
the King of Heaven and Earth hath ordained '. 

Mortals, did they will it, could live in the world of the ' 
Sidhe for ever, and we shall see this more fully in our study * 
of the Other world. But here it will be interesting to learn 
that, unlike Aedh, whom some perhaps would call a foolish 
youth, Laeghaire, also a prince, for he was the son of the 
king of Connaught, entered a dun of the Sidhe, taking fifty . 
other warriors with him ; and he and his followers found 
life in Fairyland so pleasant that they all decided to enjoy « 
it eternally. Accordingly, when they had been there a 
year, they planned to return to Connaught in order to bid 
the king and his people a final farewell. They announced 
their plan, and Fiachna of the Sidhe told them how to 
accomplish it safely : — * If ye would come back take with ^ 
you horses, but by no means dismount from off them ' ; 'So 
it was done : they went their way and came upon a general 
assembly in which Connaught, as at the year expired, 
mourned for the aforesaid warrior-band, whom now all at 
once they perceived above them (i.e. on higher ground). 
Connaught sprang to meet them, but Laeghaire cried : 
" Approach us not [to touch us] : 'tis to bid you farewell 
that we are here ! " " Leave me not ! " Crimthann, his 
father, said : " Connaught 's royal power be thine ; their 
silver and their gold, their horses with their bridles, and their 


noble women be at thy discretion, only leave me not ! " But 
Laeghaire turned from them and so entered again into the 
sidh, where with Fiachna he exercises joint kingly rule ; nor 
is he as yet come out of it.* ^ 

Hill Visions of Sidb-e Women 

There are many recorded traditions which represent 
certain hills as mystical places whereon men are favoured / 
with visions of fairy women. Thus, one day King Muir- ^ 

* Silva Gadelica, ii. 290-1. In many old texts mortals are not forcibly /^ 
taken ; but go to the fairy world through love for a fairy woman ; or/ 
else to accomplish there some mission. / 

No doubt the most curious elements in this text are those which repre- 
sent the prince and his warrior companions, fresh come from Fairyland, as 
in some mysterious way so changed that they must neither dismount from 
their horses and thus come in contact with the earth, nor allow any mortal 
to touch them ; for to his father the king who came forward in joy to 
embrace him after having mourned him as dead, Laeghaire cried, ' Ap- 
proach us not to touch us ! ' Some unknown magical bodily transmu-/ 
tation seems to have come about from their sojourn among the Tuatha 
De Danann, who are eternally young and unfading — a transmutation 
apparently quite the same as that which the * gentry ' are said to bring 
about now when one of our race is taken to live with them. And in all 
fairy stories no mortal ever returns from Fairyland a day older than on ^ 
entering it, no matter how many years may have elapsed. The idea reminds; 
us of the dreams of mediaeval alchemists who thought there exists, if one 
could only discover it, some magic potion which will so transmute every ^ 
atom of the human body that death can never affect it. Probably the# 
Christian scribe in writing down these strange words had in mind what/ 
Jesus said to Mary Magdalene when she beheld him after the Resurrec- 
tion :— ' Touch me not ; for I am not yet ascended unto the Father.' f 
The parallel would be a striking and exact one in any case, for it is recorded f 
that Jesus after he had arisen from the dead — had come out of Hades or the ' 
invisible realm of subjectivity which, too, is Fairyland — appeared to some/ 
and not to others — some being able to recognize him and others not ; and 
concerning the nature of Jesus's body at the Ascension not all theologians 
are agreed. Some believe it to have been a physical body so purified and 
transmuted as to be like, or the same as, a spiritual body, and thus capable >< 
of invisibility and of entrance into the Realm of Spirit. The Scotch 
minister and seer used this same parallel in describing the nature and 
power of fairies and spirits (p. 91); hence it would seem to follow, if 
we admit the influence in the Irish text to be Christian, that early, like 
modern Christians, have, in accordance with Christianity, described the 
nature of the Sidhe so as to correspond with what we know it to be in 
the Fairy-Faith itself, both anciently and at the present day. 


chertach came forth to hunt on the border of the Brugh 
(near Stackallan Bridge, County Meath), and his companions 
left him alone on his hunting-mound. ' He had not been 
there long when he saw a solitary damsel beautifully formed, 
fair-haired, bright-skinned, with a green mantle about her 
sitting near him on the turfen mound ; and it seemed to 
him that of womankind he had never beheld her equal in 
beauty and refinement.' ^ In the Mabinogion of Pwyll, 
Prince of Dyvet, which seems to be only a Brythonic treat- 
ment of an original Gaelic tale, Pwyll seating himself on 
a mound where any mortal sitting might see a prodigy, 
saw a fairy woman ride past on a white horse, and she clad 
in a garment of shining gold. Though he tried to have his 
servitor on the swiftest horse capture her, * There was some 
magic about the lady that kept her always the same distance 
ahead, though she appeared to be riding slowly.* When on 
the second day Pwyll returned to the mound the fairy 
woman came riding by as before, and the servitor again 
gave unsuccessful chase. Pwyll saw her in the same manner 
on the third day. He thereupon gave chase himself, and 
when he exclaimed to her, * For the sake of the man whom 
you love, wait for me ! ' she stopped ; and by mutual 
arrangement the two agreed to meet and to marry at the 
end of a year.^ 

The Minstrels or Musicians of the Sidhe 

Not only did the fairy- folk of more ancient times enjoy 
wonderful palaces full of beauty and riches, and a life of 
eternal youth, but they also had, even as now, minstrelsy 
and rare music — music to which that of our own world 
could not be compared at all ; for even Patrick himself said 
that it would equal the very music of heaven if it were not 
for ' a twang of the fairy spell that infests it '.^ And this 
is how it was that Patrick heard the fairy music : — As he was 
travelling through Ireland he once sat down on a grassy 

* Death of Muirchertach, Stokes's trans., in Rev. Celt., xxiii. 397. 
' Cf. J. Loth, Les Mabinogion (Paris, 1889), i. 38-52. 
' Silva Gadelica, ii. 187-92. 


knoll, as he often did in the good old Irish way, with Ulidia's 
king and nobles and Caeilte also : ' Nor were they long 
there before they saw draw near them a scoldg or *' non- 
warrior " that wore a fair green mantle having in it a fibula 
of silver ; a shirt of yellow silk next his skin, over and 
outside that again a tunic of soft satin, and with a timpdn 
(a sort of harp) of the best slung on his back. " Whence 
comest thou, scoldg ? " asked the king. " Out of the sidh 
of the Daghda's son Bodhb Derg, out of Ireland's southern 
part.'* " What moved thee out of the south, and who art 
thou thyself ? " "I am Cascorach, son of Cainchinn that is 
ollave to the Tuatha De Danann, and am myself the makings 
of an ollave (i.e. an aspirant to the grade). What started 
me was the design to acquire knowledge, and information, 
and lore for recital, and the Fianna's mighty deeds of valour, 
from Caeilte son of Ronan." Then he took his timpdn and 
made for them music and minstrelsy, so that he sent them 
slumbering off to sleep.* And Cascorach's music was pleas- 
ing to Patrick, who said of it : ' Good indeed it were, but 
for a twang of the fairy spell that infests it ; barring which 
nothing could more nearly than it resemble Heaven's har- 
mony.' ^ And that very night which followed the day on 
which the ollave to the Tuatha De Danann came to them 
was the Eve of S amain. There was also another of these 
fairy timpdn-p\3.yeYS called ' the wondrous elfin man ', 
' Aillen mac Midhna of the Tuatha De Danann, that out of 
sidh Finnachaidh to the northward used to come to Tara : 
the manner of his coming being with a musical timpdn in 
his hand, the which whenever any heard he would at once 
sleep. Then, all being lulled thus, out of his mouth Aillen 
would emit a blast of fire. It was on the solemn Samain- 
Day (November Day) he came in every year, played his 
timpdn, and to the fairy music that he made all hands 
would fall asleep. With his breath he used to blow up the 
flame and so, during a three-and-twenty years' spell, yearly 
burnt up Tara with all her gear.* And it is said that Finn, 
finally overcoming the magic of Aillen, slew him.^ 

* Silva Gadelica, ii. 142-4. 


Perhaps in the first musician, Cascorach, though he is 
described as the son of a Tuatha De Danann minstrel, we 
behold a mortal like one of the many Irish pipers and 
musicians who used to go, or even go yet, to the fairy- folk 
to be educated in the musical profession, and then come back 
as the most marvellous players that ever were in Ireland ; 
though if Cascorach were once a mortal it seems that he has 
been quite transformed in bodily nature so as to be really 
one of the Tuatha De Danann himself. But Aillen mac 
Midhna is undoubtedly one of the mighty * gentry * who 
could — as we heard from County Sligo — destroy half the 
human race if they wished. Aillen visits Tara, the old 
psychic centre both for Ireland's high-kings and its Druids. 
He comes as it were against the conquerors of his race, who 
in their neglectfulness no longer render due worship and 
sacrifice on the Feast of S amain to the Tuatha De Danann, 
the gods of the dead, at that time supreme ; and then it is 
that he works his magic against the royal palaces of the 
kings and Druids on the ancient Hill. And to overcome the 
magic of Aillen and slay him, that is, make it impossible for 
him to repeat his annual visits to Tara, it required the might 
of the great hero Finn, who himself was related to the same 
Sidhe race, for by a woman of the Tuatha De Danann he 
had his famous son Ossian (Oisin).^ 

In Gilla de, who is Manannan mac Lir, the greatest 
magician of the Tuatha De Danann, disguised as a being 
who can disappear in the twinkling of an eye whenever he 
wishes, and reappear unexpectedly as a * kern that wore 
garb of yellow stripes ', we meet with another fairy musician. 
And to him O'Donnell says : — ' By Heaven's grace again, 
since first I heard the fame of them that within the hills and 
under the earth beneath us make the fairy music, . . . music 
sweeter than thy strains I have never heard ; thou art in 
sooth a most melodious rogue ! ' 2 And again it is said of 

* Campbell, The Ftans, pp. 79-80. In Silva Gadelica, ii. 522, it is stated 
that the mother of Ossian bore him whilst in the shape of a doe. The f 
mother of Ossian in animal shape may be an example of an ancient Celtic ^ 
totemistic survival. , 

* Silva Gadelica, ii. 311-24. ' 


him : — ' Then the gilla decair taking a harp played music 
so sweet . . . and the king after a momentary glance at his 
own musicians never knew which way he went from him.' ^ 

Social Organization and Warfare among the Swhe 

So far, we have seen only the happy side of the life of 
the Sidhe-io\]^ — their palaces and pleasures and music ; but 
there was a more human (or anthropomorphic) side to their 
nature in which they wage war on one another, and have 
their matrimonial troubles even as we moderns. And we 
turn now to examine this other side of their life, to behold 
the Sidhe as a warlike race ; and as we do so let us remember 
that the ' gentry ' in the Ben Bulbin country and in all ' 
Ireland, and the people of Fin vara in Knock Ma, and also ' 
the invisible races of California, are likewise described as ' 
given to war and mighty feats of arms. 

The invisible Irish races have always had a very distinct 
social organization, so distinct in fact that Ireland can be 
divided according to its fairy kings and fairy queens and 
their territories even now ; ^ and no doubt we see in this 
how the ancient Irish anthropomorphically projected into 
an animistic belief their own social conditions and racial 
characteristics. And this social organization and territorial 
division ought to be understood before we discuss the social 
troubles and consequent wars of the Sidhe-io\^. For ex- 
ample in Munster Bodb was king and his enchanted 
palace was called the Sid of the Men of Femen ; ^ and we 
already know about the over-king Dagda and his Boyne 
palace near Tara. In more modern times, especially in 
popular fairy-traditions, Eevil or Eevinn (Aoibhill or Aoi- 
bhinn) of the Craig Liath or Grey Rock is a queen of the 
Munster fairies ; * and Finvara is king of the Connaught 
fairies (see p. 42). There are also the Irish fairy-queens 

* Silva Gadeltca, ii. 311-24. 

^ For an enumeration of the Tuatha De Danann chieftains and their 
respective territories see Silva Gadelica, ii. 225. 
=> Cf. Le Cycle Myth. Irl., p. 285. 

* I am personally indebted for these names to Dr. Douglas Hyde. 


Cleeona {Cliodhna, or in an earlier form Clidna [cf. p. 356]) 
and Aine (see p. 79 above). 

We are now prepared to see the Tuatha De Danann in 
their domestic troubles and wars ; and the following story 
is as interesting as any, for in it Dagda himself is the chief 
actor. Once when his own son Oengus fell sick of a love 
malady, King Dagda, who ruled all the Sidhe-io\\i in Ireland, 
joined forces with Ailill and Medb in order to compel Ethal 
Anbual to deliver up his beautiful daughter Caer whom 
Oengus loved. When Ethal Anbual's palace had been 
stormed and Ethal Anbual reduced to submission, he declared 
he had no power over his daughter Caer, for on the first of 
November each year, he said, she changed to a swan, or 
from a swan to a maiden again. ' The first of November 
next,' he added, ' my daughter will be under the form of 
a swan, near the Loch bel Draccon. Marvellous birds will 
be seen there : my daughter will be surrounded by a hun- 
dred and fifty other swans.' When the November Day 
arrived, Oengus went to the lake, and, seeing the swans and 
recognizing Caer, plunged into the water and instantly 
became a swan with her. While under the form of swans, 
Oengus and Caer went together to the Boyne palace of the 
king Dagda, his father, and remained there ; and their sing- 
ing was so sweet that all who heard it slept three days and 
three nights.^ In this story, new elements in the nature of 
the Sidhe appear, though like modern ones : the Sidhe are 
able to assume other forms than their own, are subject to 
enchantments like mortals ; and when under the form of 
swans are in some perhaps superficial aspects like the swan- 
maidens in stories which are world-wide, and their swan- 
song has the same sweetness and magical effect as in other 
countries. 2 

In the Rennes Dinnshenchas there is a tale about a war 
among the ' men of the Elf mounds ' over * two lovable 
maidens who dwelt in the elf mound ', and when they de- 
livered the battle ' they aU shaped themselves into the 

Cf. Le Cycle Myth. Irl., pp. 284-9 ; cf. Rev. Celt., iii. 347. 
* Cf. E. S. Hartland, Science of Fairy Tales (London, 1891), cc. x-xi. 


shapes of deer '.^ Midir's sons under Donn mac Midir, in 
rebellion against the Daghda's son Bodh Derg, fled away 
to an obscure sidh, wherein yearly battle they met the hosts 
of the other Tuatha De Danann under Bodh Derg ; and it 
was into this sidh or fairy palace on the very eve before the 
annual contest that Finn and his six companions were 
enticed by the fairy woman in the form of a fawn, to secure 
their aid.^ And in another tale, Laeghaire, son of the king 
of Connaught, with fifty warriors, plunged into a lake to the 
fairy world beneath it, in order to assist the fairy man, who 
came thence to them, to recover his wife stolen by a rival.^ 

The S/diie as War-Goddesses or the Badb 

It is in the form of birds that certain of the Tuatha De 
Danann appear as war-goddesses and directors of battle,^ — 
and we learn from one of our witnesses (p. 46) that the 
* gentry ' or modern Sidhe-iolk take sides even now in a great 
war, like that between Japan and Russia. It is in their relation / 
to the hero Cuchulainn that one can best study the People of m 
the Goddess Dana in their role as controllers of human war. 
In the greatest of the Irish epics, the Tain Bo Cuailnge\ 
where Cuchulainn is under their influence, these war- 
goddesses are called Badb^ (or Bodb) which here seems to 
be a collective term for Neman, Macha, and Morrigu (or 
Morrigan) ^ — each of whom exercises a particular super- 
natural power. Neman appears as the confounder of armies, 
so that friendly bands, bereft of their senses by her, slaughter 
one another ; Macha is a fury that riots and revels among 

* Stokes's trans, in Rev. Celt., xvi. 274-5. 

* Silva GadelicUy ii. 222 ff . ; ii. 290. In anothei" version of the second 
tale, referred to above (on page 295 ), Laeghaire and his fifty companions 
enter the fairy world through a dun. 

' Sometimes, as in Da Choca's Hostel {Rev. Celt., xxi. 157, 315), the 
Badb appears as a weird woman uttering prophecies. In this case the 
Badb watches over Cormac as his doom comes. She is described as stand- 
ing on one foot, and with one eye closed (apparently in a bird's posture), 
as she chanted to Cormac this prophecy : — ' I wash the harness of a king 
who will perish.' 

* Synonymous names are Badb-catha, Fea, Ana. Cf. Rev. Celt., i. 35-7. 

* Cf. Hennessy, Ancient Irish Goddess 0/ War, in Rev. Celt., i. 32-55. 


the slain ; while Morrigu, the greatest of the three, by her 
presence infuses superhuman valour into Cuchulainn, nerves - 
him for the cast, and guides the course of his unerring spear. ' 
And the Tuatha De Danann in infusing this valour into the 
great hero show themselves — as we already know them to 
be on Samain Eve — the rulers of all sorts of demons of the 
air and awful spirits : — In the Book of Leinster (fol. 57, B 2) 
it is recorded that ' the satyrs, and sprites, and maniacs of 
the valleys, and demons of the air, shouted about him, for 
the Tuatha De Danann were wont to impart their valour 
to him, in order that he might be more feared, more dreaded, 
more terrible, in every battle and battle-field, in every 
combat and conflict, into which he went.' 

The Battles of Moytura seem in most ways to be nothing 
more than the traditional record of a long warfare to 
determine the future spiritual control of Ireland, carried 
on between two diametrically opposed orders of invisible 
beings, the Tuatha De Danann representing the gods of 
light and good and the Fomorians representing the gods 
of darkness and evil. It is said that after the second of these 
battles * The Morrigu, daughter of Emmas (the Irish war- 
goddess), proceeded to proclaim that battle and the mighty 
victory which had taken place, to the royal heights of 
Ireland and to its fairy host and its chief waters and its river- 
mouths *} For good had prevailed over evil, and it was , 
settled that all Ireland should for ever afterwards be a sacred 
country ruled over by the People of the Goddess Dana and < 
the Sons of Mil jointly. So that here we see the Tuatha De 
Danann with their war-goddess fighting their own battles 
in which human beings play no part. » 

It is interesting to observe that this Irish war-goddess, 
the hodh or hadh, considered of old to be one of the Tuatha 
De Danann, has survived to our own day in the fairy-lore 
of the chief Celtic countries. In Ireland the survival is best 
seen in the popular and still almost general belief among w 
the peasantry that the fairies often exercise their magical * 
powers under the form of royston-crows ; and for this * 

* Stokes, Second Battle of Moytura, in Rev. Celt., xii. 109-11. 


reason these birds are always great] y dreaded and avoided. 
The resting of one of them on a peasant's cottage may 
signify many things, but often it means the death of one of > 
the family or some great misfortune, the bird in such a case ^ 
playing the part of a hean-sidhe (banshee) . And this folk- < 
belief finds its echo in the recorded tales of Wales, Scotland, 
and Brittany. In the Mahinogi, * Dream of Rhonabwy/ 
Owain, prince of Rheged and a contemporary of Arthur, 
has a wonderful crow which always secures him victory in a 
battle by the aid of three hundred other crows under its^ 
leadership. In Campbell's Popular Tales of the West High- 
lands the fairies very often exercise their power in the form 
of the common hoody crow ; and in Brittany there is a folk- 
tale entitled * Les Compagnons ' ^ in which the chief actor is 
a fairy under the form of a magpie who lives in a royal 
forest just outside Rennes.^ 

W. M. Hennessy has shown that the word bodb or badb, 
aspirated bodhbh or badhbh (pronounced bov or bav), origin- 
ally signified rage, fury, or violence, and ultimately implied . 
a witch, fairy, or goddess ; and that as the memory of this 
Irish goddess of war survives in folk-lore, her emblem is the 
well-known scald-crow, or royston-crow.^ By referring to- 
Peter O'Connell's Irish Dictionary we are able to confirm 
this popular belief which identifies the battle-fairies with 

* Luzel, Contes populaires de Basse Bretagne, iii. 296-311. 

* The Celtic examples recall non-Celtic ones : the raven was sacred 
among the ancient Scandinavians and Germans, being looked upon as 
the emblem of Odin ; in ancient Egypt and Rome commonly, and to a less 
extent in ancient Greece, gods often declared their will through birds or 
even took the form of birds ; in Christian scriptures the Spirit of God or 
the Holy Ghost descended upon Jesus at his baptism in the semblance of 
a dove ; and it is almost a world-wide custom to symbolize the human 
soul under the form of a bird or butterfly. Possibly such beliefs as these 
are relics of a totemistic creed which in times long previous to history was 
as definitely held by the ancestors of the nations of antiquity, including 
the ancient Celts, as any totemistic creed to be found now among native 
Australians or North American Red Men. At all events, in the story of a 
bird ancestry of Conaire we seem to have a perfectly clear example of 
a Celtic totemistic survival — even though Dr. Frazer may not admit it 
as such (cf. Rev. Celt., xxii. 20, 24; xii. 242-3). 

' Hennessy, The Ancient Irish Goddess of War, in Rev. Celt., i. 32-57. 


the royston-crow, and to discover that there is a definite 
relationship or even identification between the Badh and • 
the Bean-sidhe or banshee, as there is in modern Irish folk- • 
lore between the royston-crow and the fairy who announces ' 
a death. Badh-catha is made to equal ' Fionog, a royston- 1 
crow, a squall crow ' ; Badb is defined as a * bean-sidhe, • 
a female fairy, phantom, or spectre, supposed to be attached * 
to certain families, and to appear sometimes in the form of 1 
squall-crows, or royston-crows ' ; and the Badb in the three- * 
fold aspect is thus explained : * Macha, i. e. a royston-crow ; 
Morrighain, i. e. the great fairy ; Neamhan, i. e. Badb catha 
no feanndg ; a badb catha, or royston-crow.' Similar ex- 
planations are given by other glossarists, and thus the 
evidence of etymological scholarship as well as that of 
folk-lore support the Psychological Theory. 

The Sidhe in the Battle of Clontarf, a.d. 1014 

The People of the Goddess Dana played an important part 
in human warfare even so late as the Battle of Clontarf, 
fought near Dublin, April 23, 1014 ; and at that time fairy 
women and phantom-hosts were to the Irish unquestion- 
able existences, as real as ordinary men and women. It is 
recorded in the manuscript story of the battle, of which 
numerous copies exist, that the fairy woman Aoibheall ^ 
came to Dunlang O'Hartigan before the battle and begged 
him not to fight, promising him life and happiness for two 
hundred years if he would put off fighting for a single day ;' 
but the patriotic Irishman expressed his decision to fight 
for Ireland, and then the fairy woman foretold how he and 
his friend Murrough, and Brian and Conaing and all the 
nobles of Erin and even his own son Turlough, were fated to 
fall in the conflict. 

On the eve of the battle, Dunlang comes to his friend 
Murrough directly from the fairy woman ; and Murrough 

* Aoibheall, who came to tell Brian Borumha of his death at Clontarf, 
was the family banshee of the royal house of Munster. Cf. J. H. Todd, 
War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill (London, 1867), p. 201. 



upon seeing him reproaches him for his absence in these 
words : — ' Great must be the love and attachment of some 
woman for thee which has induced thee to abandon me.' 
' Alas O King,' answered Dunlang, ' the delight which I have 
abandoned for thee is greater, if thou didst but know it, 
namely, life without death, without cold, without thirst, 
without hunger, without decay, beyond any delight of the 
delights of the earth to me, until the judgement, and heaven 
after the judgement ; and if I had not pledged my word to 
thee I would not have come here ; and, moreover, it is fated 
for me to die on the day that thou shalt die.' When Mur- 
rough has heard this terrible message, the prophecy of his 
own death in the battle, despondency seizes him ; and then 
it is that he declares that he for Ireland like Dunlang for 
honour has also sacrificed the opportunity of entering and 
living in that wonderful Land of Eternal Youth : — ' Often 
was I offered in hills, and in fairy mansions, this world (the 
fairy world) and these gifts, but I never abandoned for one 
night my country nor mine inheritance for them.' ^ 

And thus is described the meeting of the two armies at 
Clontarf, and the demons of the air and the phantoms, and 
all the hosts of the invisible world who were assembled to 
scatter confusion and to revel in the bloodshed, and how 
above them in supremacy rose the Badb : — ' It will be one 
of the wonders of the day of judgement to relate the descrip- 
tion of this tremendous onset. There arose a wild, im- , 
petuous, precipitate, mad, inexorable, furious, dark, lacerat- • 
ing, merciless, combative, contentious badb, which was » 
shrieking and fluttering over their heads. And there arose *■ 
also the satyrs, and sprites, and the maniacs of the valleys, * 
and the witches, and goblins, and owls, and destroying « 
demons of the air and firmament, and the demoniac phantom * 
host ; and they were inciting and sustaining valour and ♦^ 
battle with them.' 2 It is said of Murrough {Murchadh) as » 
he entered the thick of the fight and prepared to assail the 

^ Hyde, Literary History of Ireland, p. 440. 

* Cf. Hennessy, in Rev. Celt., i. 39-40. In place of badb, Dr. Hyde {Lit. 
Hist. Irl., p. 440) uses the word vulture. 


foreign invaders, the Danes, when they had repulsed the 
Dal-Cais, that ' he was seized with a boihng terrible anger, » 
an excessive elevation and greatness of spirit and mind. 
A bird of valour and championship rose in him, and fluttered . 
over his head and on his breath ' ?- 


The recorded or manuscript Fairy-Faith of the Gaels 
corresponds in all essentials with the living Gaelic Fairy- 
Faith : the Tuatha De Danann or Sidhe, the * Gentry ', the 
* Good People ', and the * People of Peace ' are described 
as a race of invisible divine beings eternally young and r. 
unfading. They inhabit fairy palaces, enjoy rare feasts and ' 
love-making, and have their own music and minstrelsy. They • 
are essentially majestic in their nature ; they wage war in » 
their own invisible realm against other of its inhabitants » 
like the ancient Fomorians ; they frequently direct human • 
warfare or nerve the arm of a great hero like Cuchulainn ; * 
and demons of the air, spirit hosts, and awful unseen crea- 1 
tures obey them. Mythologically they are gods of light and f 
good, able to control natural phenomena so as to make • 
harvests come forth abundantly or not at all. But they are 
not such mythological beings as we read about in scholarly 
dissertations on mythology, dissertations so learned in their 
curious and unreasonable and often unintelligible hypo- 
theses about the workings of the mind among primitive 
men. The way in which social psychology has deeply 
affected all such animistic beliefs was pointed out above in 
chapter iii. In chapter xi, entitled Science and Fairies, 
our position with respect to the essential nature of the 
fairy races will be made clear. 

^ Heunessy, in Rev. Celt., i. 52. 

X 2 





* On the one hand we have the man Arthur^ whose position we have 
tried to define, and on the other a greater Arthur, a more colossal figure, 
of which we have, so to speak, but a torso rescued from the wreck of the 
Celtic pantheon.' — The Right Hon. Sir John Rhys. 

The god Arthur and the hero Arthur — Sevenfold evidence to show Arthur 
as an incarnate fairy king — Lancelot the foster-son of a fairy woman 
— Galahad the offspring of Lancelot and the fairy woman Elayne — 
Arthur as a fairy king in Kulhwch and Olwen — Gwynn ab Nudd — 
Arthur like Dagda, and like Osiris — Brythonic fairy-romances : their 
evolution and antiquity — Arthur in Nennius, Geoffrey, Wace, and in 
Layamon — Cambrensis' Otherworld tale — Norman-French writers of^ 
twelfth and thirteenth centuries — Romans d'Aventure and Romans 
Bretons — Origins of the ' Matter of Britain ' — Fairy -romance episodes 
in Welsh literature — Brythonic origins. 

Arthur and Arthurian Mythology 

As we have just considered the Gaelic Divinities in their 
character as the Fairy-Folk of popular Gaelic tradition, so 
now we proceed to consider the Brythonic Divinities in the 
same way, beginning with the greatest of them all, Arthur. 
Even a superficial acquaintance with the Arthurian Legend 

* Chief general reference : Sir John Rhys, Arthurian Legend (Oxford, 
1 891). Chief sources : ^enmns, Historia Britonum (circa 800) ; Geoffrey 
of Monmouth, Historia Regum Britanniae (circa 11 36) ; Wace, Le Roman 
de Brut (circa 11 5 5); Layamon's Brut (circa 1200); Marie de France, 
Lais (twelfth-thirteenth century) ; The Four Ancient Books of Wales 
twelfth-fifteenth century), edited by W. F. Skene ; The Mahinogion 
(based on the Red Book of Hergest, a fourteenth-century manuscript), 
edited by Lady Charlotte Guest, Sir John Rhys and J. G. Evans, and 
Professor J. Loth ; Malory, Le Morte D' Arthur (1470) ; The Myvyrian 
Archaiology of Wales, collected out of ancient manuscripts (Denbigh, 
1870); lolo Manuscripts, a selection of ancient Welsh manuscripts 
(Llandovery, 184&). 


shows how impossible it is to place upon it any one interpre- 
tation to the exclusion of other interpretations, for in one 
aspect Arthur is a Brythonic divinity and in another a sixth- ., 
century Brythonic chieftain. But the explanation of this « 
double aspect seems easy enough when we regard the his- 
torical Arthur as a great hero, who, exactly as in so many 
parallel cases of national hero-worship, came — within a com- * 
paratively short time — to be enshrined in the imagination ♦ 
of the patriotic Brythons with all the attributes anciently • 
belonging to a great Celtic god called Arthur.^ The hero » 
and the god were first confused, and then identified,^ and * 
hence arose that wonderful body of romance which we call 
Arthurian, and which has become the glory of English 

Arthur in the character of a culture hero,^ with god-like 
powers to instruct mortals in wisdom, and, also, as a being 
in some way related to the sun — as a sun-god perhaps — 
can well be considered the human-divine institutor of the 
mystic brotherhood known as the Round Table. We ought, 
probably, to consider Arthur, like Cuchulainn, as a god incar- 
nate in a human body for the purpose of educating the race 
of men ; and thus, while living as a man, related definitely 
and, apparently, consciously to the invisible gods or fairy- 
folk. Among the Aztecs and Peruvians in the New World, 
there was a widespread belief that great heroes who had 
once been men have now their celestial abode in the sun, 
and from time to time reincarnate to become teachers of 

' In a Welsh poem of the twelfth century (see W. F. Skene, Four Ancient 
Books, Edinburgh, 1868, ii. 37, 38) wherein the war feats of Prince Geraint 
are described, his men, who lived and fought a long time after the period 
assigned to Arthur, are called the men of Arthur ; and, as Sir John Rhys 
thinks, this is good evidence that the genuine Arthur was a mythical « 
figure, one might almost be permitted to say a god, who overshadows and ♦ 
directs his warrior votaries, but who, never descending into the battle, is • 
in this respect comparable with the Irish war-goddess the Badb (cf. Rhys, ♦ 
Celtic Britain, London, 1904, p. 236. 

* Cf. Rhys, Arth. Leg., chap. i. 

• Cf. Rhys, Arth. Leg., pp. 24, 48. Sir John Rhys sees good reasons for 
regarding Arthur as a culture hero, because of Arthur's traditional relation < 
with agriculture, which most culture heroes, like Osiris, have taught their * 
people (ib., pp. 41-3). 


their less developed brethren of our own race ; and a 
belief of the same character existed among the Egyptians n 
and other peoples of the Old World, including the Celts.* 
It will be further shown, in our study of the Celtic Doctrine 
of Re-birth, that anciently among the Gaels and Brythons* 
such heroes as Cuchulainn and Arthur were also considered -' 
reincarnate sun-divinities. As a being related to the sun,* 
as a sun-god, Arthur is like Osiris, the Great Being, who* 
with his brotherhood of great heroes and god-companions 9 
enters daily the underworld or Hades to battle against the » 
demons and forces of evil,^ even as the Tuatha De Danann / 
battled against the Fomors. And the most important things i 
in the traditions of the great Brythonic hero connect him 
directly with this strange world of subjectivity. First of all, 
his own father, Uthr Bendragon,^ was a king of Hades, so# 
that Arthur himself, being his child, is a direct descendant* 
of this Otherworld. Second, the Arthurian Legend traces 
the origin of the Round Table back to Arthur's father, • 
Hades being * the realm whence all culture was fabkd to ? 
have been derived \^ Third, the name of Arthur's wife, * 
Gwenhwyvar, resolves itself into White Phantom or White / 
Apparition, in harmony with Arthur's line of descent from* 
the region of phantoms and apparitions and fairy- folk. 4 
Thus : — Gwenhwyvar or Gwenhwyfar equals Gwen or Gwenn, 
a Brythonic word meaning white, and hwyvar, a word not 
found in the Brythonic dialects, but undoubtedly cognate 
with the Irish word siabhradh, a fairy, equal to siahhra, 
siabrae, siabur, a fairy, or ghost, the Welsh and the Irish 
word going back to the form *setbaro.^ Hence the name 
of Arthur's wife means the white ghost or white phantom, « 
quite in keeping with the nature of the Tuatha De Danann /• 
and that of the fairy-folk of Wales or Tylwyth Teg — the 
* Fair Family '. 

Fourth, as a link in the chain of evidence connecting 

* Cf. G. Maspero, Contes populaires de I'Egypte Ancienne^ (Paris, 1906), 
Intro., p. 57. 

* Sommer's Malory's Morte D' Arthur, iii. i. 
^ Rhys, Arth. Leg., p. 9. 

* I am indebted to Professor J. Loth for help with this etymology. 


Arthur with the invisible world where the Fairy-People live, 
his own sister is called Morgan le Fay in the romances/ » 
and is thus definitely one of the fairy women who, according • 
to tradition, are inhabitants of the Celtic Otherworld some- * 
times known as Avalon. Fifth, in the Welsh Triads,^ » 
Llacheu, the son of Arthur and Gwenhwyvar, is credited $ 
with clairvoyant vision, like the fairy-folk, so that he under- , 
stands the secret nature of all solid and material things ; » 
and * the story of his death as given in the second part of 
the Welsh version of the Grail, makes him hardly human at 
all.'^ Sixth, the name of Melwas, the abductor of Arthur's , 
wife, is shown by Sir John Rhys to mean a prince-youth or • 
a princely youth, and the same authority considers it prob- 
able that, as such, Melwas or Maelwas was a being endowed 
with eternal youth, — even as Midir, the King of the Tuatha r 
De Danann, who though a thousand years old appeared 
handsome and youthful. So it seems that the abduction *' 
of Gwenhwyfar was really a fairy abduction, such as we read *' 
about in the domestic troubles of the Irish fairy-folk, on 
a level with the abduction of Etain by her Otherworld hus- 
band Midir."* And in keeping with this superhuman character 
of the abductor of the White Phantom or Fairy, Chretien de 
Troyes, in his metrical romance Le Conte de la Charrette, 
describes the realm of which Melwas was lord as a place * 
whence no traveller returns.^ As further proof that the^ 
realm of Melwas was meant by Chretien to be the subjective •* 
world, where the god-like Tuatha De Danann, the Tylwyth t 
Teg, and the shades of the dead equally exist, it is said that \ 
access to it was by two narrow bridges ; * one called li Ponz » 
Evages or the Water Bridge, because it was a narrow passage . 
a foot and a half wide and as much in height, with water ^ 
above and below it as well as on both sides ' ; the other \ 

* Cf. Rhys, Arth Leg., p. 22. 

* i. 10; ii. 21'' ; iii. 70 ; cf. Rhys, Arth, Leg., p. 60. 

» See Williams' Seint Greal, pp. 278, 304, 341, 617, 634,658, 671 ; Rhys, 
Arth. Leg., p. 61. 

* Cf. Rhys, Arth. Leg., pp. 51, 35 ; and see our study, pp. 374-6. 

' Chevalier de la Charrette (ed. by Tarbe), p. 22 ; Romania, xii. 467, 
515 ; cf. Rhys, Arth. Leg., p. 54. 


li Ponz de VEspee or the Sword Bridge, because it consisted • 
of the edge of a sword two lances in length.^ The first < 
bridge, considered less perilous than the other, was chosen 
by Gauvain (Gwalchmei) , when with Lancelot he was seeking 
to rescue Gwenhwyfar ; but he failed to cross it. Lancelot 
with great trouble crossed the second. In many mytho- 
logies and in world-wide folk-tales there is a narrow bridge or • 
bridges leading to the realm of the dead. Even Mohammed , 
in the Koran declares it necessary to cross a bridge as thin • 
as a hair, if one would enter Paradise. And in living * 
folk-lore in Celtic countries, as we found among the Irish 
peasantry, the crossing of a bridge or stream of water when « 
pursued by fairies or phantoms is a guarantee of protection. • 
There is always the mystic water between the realm of the • 
living and the realm of subjectivity.^ In ancient Egypt there » 
was always the last voyage begun on the sacred Nile ; and 
in all classical literature Pluto's realm is entered by crossing 
a dark, deep river, — the river of forgetfulness between » 
physical consciousness and spiritual consciousness. Burns •* 
has expressed this belief in its popular form in his Tarn 
0' Shunter. And in our Arthurian parallel there is a clear 
enough relation between the beings inhabiting the invisible 
realm and the Brythonic heroes and gods. How striking, 
too, as Gaston Paris has pointed out, is the similarity 
between Mel was' capturing Gwenhwyvar as she was in the | 
woods a-maying, and the rape of Proserpine by Pluto, « 
the god of Hades, while she was collecting flowers in the 

A curious matter in connexion with this episode of Gwen- 
hwyvar's abduction should claim our attention. Malory 
relates * that when Queen Guenever advised her knights of 
the Table Round that on the morrow (May Day, when fairies 
have special powers) she would go on maying, she warned * 
them all to be well-horsed and dressed in green. This was • 
the colour that nearly all the fairy-folk of Britain and 

1 Romania, xii. 467-8, 473-4; cf. Rhys, Arth. Leg., p. 55. 

^ Cf. Tylor, Prim. Cult.,* ii. 93-4. 

» Romania, xii. 508 ; cf. Rhys, Arth. Leg., p. 54. * Book XIX, c. i. 


Ireland wear. It symbolizes, as many ancient mystical* 
writings declare, eternal youth, and resurrection or re-birth, $ 
as in nature during the springtime, when all vegetation * 
after its death-sleep of winter springs into new life.^ In » 
the Myvyrian Archaiology,^ Arthur when he has reached 
the realm of Melwas speaks with Gwenhwyvar,^ he being 

* In the Lebar Brecc there is a tract describing eight Eucharistic Colours 
and their mystical or hidden meaning ; and green is so described that we 
recognize in its Celtic-Christian symbolism the same essential significance 
as in the writings of both pagan and non-Celtic Christian mystics, thus : — 

' This is what the Green denotes, when he (the priest) looks at it : that his ♦ 
heart and his mind be filled with great faintness and exceeding sorrow > » 
for what is understood by it is his burial at the end of life under mould of » 
earth ; for green is the original colour of every earth, and therefore the t 
colour of the robe of Offering is likened unto green ' (Stokes, Tripartite , 
Life, Intro., p. 189). During the ceremonies of initiation into the Ancient » 
Mysteries, it is supposed that the neophyte left the physical body in a trance , 
state, and in full consciousness, which he retained afterwards, entered the » 
subjective world and beheld all its wonders and inhabitants ; and that « 
coming out of that world he was clothed in a robe of sacred green to sym- ► 
bolize his own spiritual resurrection and re-birth into real life — for he had i 
penetrated the Mystery of Death and was now an initiate. Even yet there * 
seems to be an echo of the ancient Egyptian Mysteries in the Festival of . 
Al-Khidr celebrated in the middle of the wheat harvest in Lower Egypti# 
Al-Khidr is a holy personage who, according to the belief of the people, 
was the Vizier of Dhu'l-Karnen, a contemporary of Abraham, and who, 
never having died, is still living and will continue to live until the Day of 
Judgement. And he is always represented ' clad in green garments, whence « 
probably the name ' he bears. Green is thus associated with a hero or god • 
who is immortal and unchanging, like the Tuatha De Danann and fairy t 
races (see Sir Norman Lockyer's Stonehenge and Other Stone Monuments, 
London, 1909, p. 29). In modern Masonry, which preserves many of the 
ancient mystic rites, and to some extent those of initiation as anciently 
performed, green is the symbol of life, immutable nature, of truth, and » 
victory. In the evergreen the Master Mason finds the emblem of hope • 
and immortality. And the masonic authority who gives this information » 
suggests that in all the Ancient Mysteries this symbolism was carried out « 
— green symbolizing the birth of the world and the moral creation or <■ 
resurrection of the initiate {General History, Cyclopedia, and Dictionary of 1 
Freemasonry, by Robert Macoy, 33°, New York, 1869). 

* Myv. Arch.yi. 175. The text itself in this work is said to be copied 
from the Green Book — now unknown. Cf. Rhys, Arth. Leg. p. 56 n. 

' In this text, the Gwenhwyvar who is in the power of Melwas is referred 
to as Arthur's second wife Gwenhwyvar, for according to the Welsh Triads 
(i. 59 ; ii. 16 ; iii. 109) there are three wives of Arthur all named Gwen- 
hwyvar. As Sir John Rhys observes, no poet has ever availed himself of 
all three, for the evident reason that they would have spoilt his plot 
{Arth. Leg., p. 35). 


on a black horse and she on a green one : — ' Green is 
my steed of the tint of the leaves.' Arthur's black horse — , 
black perhaps signifying the dead to whose realm he has . 
gone — being proof against all water, may have been, there- 
fore, proof against the inhabitants of the world of shades ? 
and against fairies : — ^^ 

Black is my steed and brave beneath me, 

No water will make him fear, 

And no man will make him swerve. 

The fairy colour, in different works and among different 
authors differing both in time and country, continues to 
attach itself to the abduction episode. Thus, in the four- 
teenth century the poet D. ab Gwilym alludes to Melwas 
himself as having a cloak of green : — * The sleep of Melwas « 
beneath (or in) the green cloak,' Sir John Rhys, who makes * 
this translation, observes that another reading still of y glas 
glog resolves it into a green bower to which Melwas took - 
Gwenhwyvar.^ In any case, the reference is significant, and 
goes far, in combination with the other references, to repre- 
sent the White Phantom or Fairy and her lover Melwas as 
beings of a race like the Irish Sidhe or People of the Goddess 
Dana. And though by no means exhausting all examples 
tending to prove this point, we pass on to the seventh and 
most important of our links in the sequence of evidence, 
the carrying of Arthur to Avalon in a fairy ship by fairy ^ 

From the first, Arthur was under superhuman guidance 
and protection. Merlin the magician, born of a spirit or 
daemon, claimed Arthur before birth and became his teacher 
afterwards. From the mysterious Lady of the Lake, Arthur 
received his magic sword Excalihur,^ and to her returned it, 
through Sir Bedivere. During all his time on earth the * lady 

* D. ab Gwilym's Poetry (London, 1789), poem cxi, line 44. Cf. Rhys, 
Arth. Leg., p. 66. 

* Malory, Book I, c. xxv. One account of Arthur's sword Caledvwlch or 
Caleburn describes it as having been made in the Isle of Avalon (Lady 
Ch. Guest's Mahinogion, ii. 322 n. ; also Myv. Arch., ii. 306). 


of the lake that was always friendly to King Arthur ' ^ 
watched over him ; and once when she saw him in great 
danger, like the Irish Morrigu who presided over the career 
of Cuchulainn, she sought to save him, and with the help of 
Sir Tristram succeeded.^ The passing of Arthur to Avalon 
or Faerie seems to be a return to his own native realm of ■ 
subjectivity. His own sister was with him in the ship, for^ 
she was of the invisible country too.^ And another of his » 
companions on his voyage from the visible to the invisible < 
was his life-guardian Nimue, the lady of the lake. Merlin » 
could not be of the company, for he was already in Faerie 
with the Fay Vivian. Behold the passing of Arthur as 
Malory describes it : — * , . . thus was he led away in a ship 
wherein were three queens ; that one was King Arthur's 
sister, Queen Morgan le Fay ; the other was the Queen of 
Northgalis ; the third was the Queen of the Waste Lands. 
Also there was Nimue, the chief lady of the lake, that had 
wedded Pelleas the good knight ; and this lady had done 
much for King Arthur, for she would never suffer Sir Pelleas 
to be in no place where he should be in danger of his life.' ^ 
Concerning the great Arthur's return from Avalon we shall 
speak in the chapter dealing with Re-birth. And we pass 
now from Arthur and his Brotherhood of gods and fairy-folk 
to Lancelot and his son Galahad — the two chief knights in 
the Arthurian Romance. 

According to one of the earliest accounts we have of 
Lancelot, the German poem by Ulrich von Zatzikhoven, as 
analysed by Gaston Paris, he was the son of King Pant and 
Queen Clarine of Genewis.* In consequence of the hatred 

1 Malory, Book IX, c. xv ; Sir John Rhys takes the Lady of the Lake who 
sends Arthur the sword and the one who aids him afterwards (though, 
apparently by error, two characters in Malory) as different aspects of the « 
one lake-lady Morgan (Arth. Leg., p. 348). « 

* Merlin explained to Arthur that King Loth's wife was Arthur's own ^ 
sister (Sommer's Malory, i. 64-5) ; and King Loth is one of the rulers of , 
the Other world. 

» Book XXI, c. vi. 

* This poem, according to Gaston Paris, was translated during the late 
twelfth century from a French original now lost {Romania, x. 471). Cf. 
Rhys, Arth. Leg., p. 127. 


of their subjects the royal pair were forced to flee when 
Lancelot was only a year old. During the flight, the king, 
mortally wounded, died ; and just as the queen was about 
to be taken captive, a fairy rising in a cloud of mist carried 
away the infant Lancelot from where his parents had placed 
him under a tree. The fairy took him to her abode on an 
island in the midst of the sea, from whence she derived her 
title of Lady of the Lake, and he, as her adopted son, the 
name of Lancelot du Lac ; and her island-world was called 
the Land of Maidens. Having lived in that world of Faerie 
so long, it was only natural that Lancelot should have grown 
up more like one of its fair-folk than like a mortal. No doubt 
it was on account of his half-supernatural nature that he fell ; 
in love with the White Phantom, Gwenhwyvar, the wife of , 
the king who had power to enter Hades and return again to > 
the land of the living. Who better than Lancelot could have • 
rescued Arthur's queen ? No one else in the court was so » 
well fitted for the task. And it was he who was able to cross • 
one of the magic bridges into the realm of Melwas, the ' 
Otherworld, while Gauvain (in the English form, Gawayne) ' 
failed. - 

Malory's narrative records how Lancelot, while suffering 
from the malady of madness caused by Gwenhwyvar's 
jealous expulsion of Elayne his fairy-sweetheart, — quite 
a parallel case to that of Cuchulainn when his wife Emer • 
expelled his fairy-mistress Fand, — fought against a wild 
boar and was terribly wounded, and how afterwards he was 
nursed by his own Elayne in Fairyland, and healed and 
restored to his right mind by the Sangreal. Then Sir Ector 
and Sir Perceval found him there in the Joyous Isle enjoy- 
ing the companionship of Elayne, where he had been many 
years, and from that world of Faerie induced him to return 
to Arthur's court. And, finally, comes the most important 
element of all to show how closely related Lancelot is with 
the fairy world and its people, and how inseparable from 
that invisible realm another of the fundamental elements in 
the life of Arthur is — the Quest of the Holy Grail, and the 
story of Galahad, who of all the knights was pure and good 


enough to behold the Sacred Vessel, and who was the 
offspring of the foster-son of the Lady of the Lake and the 
fairy woman Elayne.^ 

In the strange old Welsh tale of Kulhwch and Olwen we * 
find Arthur and his knights even more closely identified 
with the fairy realm than in Malory and the Norman-French * 
writers ; and this is important, because the ancient tale is, 
as scholars think, probably much freer from foreign influences 
and re-working than the better-known romances of Arthur, 
and therefore more in accord with genuine Celtic beliefs ^ 
and folk-lore, as we shall quickly see. The court of King • 
Arthur to which the youth Kulhwch goes seeking aid in 
his enterprise seems in some ways — though the parallel 
is not complete enough to be emphasized — to be a more 
artistic, because literary, picture of that fairy court which 
the Celtic peasant locates under mountains, in caverns, in 
hills, and in knolls, a court quite comparable to that of the . 
Irish Sidhe-io\\i or Tuatha De Danann. Arthur is repre- * 
sented in the midst of a brilliant life where, as in the fairy > 
palaces, there is much feasting ; and Kulhwch being invited » 
to the feasting says, * I came not here to consume meat 
and drink.' 

And behold what sort of personages from that court 
Kulhwch has pledged to him, so that by their supernatural 
assistance he may obtain Olwen, herself perhaps a fairy held • 
under fairy enchantment ^ : the sons of Gwawrddur Kyrvach, * 

* Malory, Book XII, cc. hi-x ; Rhys, Arth. Leg., -pp. 145, 164. Galahad, 
however, does not belong to the more ancient Arthurian romances at all, 
so far as scholars can determine ; and, therefore, too much emphasis ought 
not to be placed on this episode in connexion with the character of Arthur. 

' We should like to direct the reader's attention to the interesting simi- 
larity shown between this old story of Kulhwch and Olwen and the 
fairy legend which we found living in South Wales, and now recorded by 
us on page 161, under the title of Einion and Olwen. As we have there 
suggested, the legend seems to be the remnant of a very ancient bardic 
tale preserved in the oral traditions of the people ; and the prevalence of 
such bardic traditions in a part of Wales where some of the Mabinogion 
stories either took shape, or from where they drew folk-lore material, 
would make it probable that there may even be some close relationship 
between the Olwen of the story and the Olwen of our folk-tale. If it 
could be shown that there is, we should be able at once to regard both 


whom Arthur had power to call from the confines of hell ; 
Morvran the son of Tegid, who, because of his ugliness, was 
thought to be a demon ; Sandde Bryd Angel, who was so 
beautiful that mortals thought him a ministering angel ; 
Henbedestyr, with whom no one could keep pace * either on 
horseback, or on foot \ and who therefore seems to be 
a spirit of the air ; Henwas Adeinawg, with whom ' no four- 
footed beast could run the distance of an acre, much less go 
beyond it ' ; Sgilti Yscawndroed, who must have been another 
spirit or fairy, for * when he intended to go on a message for 
his Lord (Arthur, who is like a Tuatha De Danann king), he 
never sought to find a path, but knowing whither he was to 
go, if his way lay through a wood he went along the tops of 
the trees ', and ' during his whole life, a blade of reed-grass 
bent not beneath his feet, much less did one ever break, so 
lightly did he tread ' ; Gwallgoyc, who ' when he came to 
a town, though there were three hundred houses in it, if he 
wanted anything, he would not let sleep come to the eyes of 
any whilst he remained there ' ; Osla Gyllellvawr, who bore 
a short broad dagger, and ' when Arthur and his hosts came 
before a torrent, they would seek for a narrow place where 
they might pass the water, and would lay the sheathed 
dagger across the torrent, and it would form a bridge suffi- 
cient for the armies of the three Islands of Britain, and of 
the three islands adjacent, with their spoil.* It seems very 
evident that this is the magic bridge, so often typified by 
a sword or dagger, which connects the world invisible with 
our own, and over which all shades and spirits pass freely 
to and fro. In this case we think Arthur is very clearly 
a ruler of the spirit realm, for, like the great Tuatha De * 
Danann king Dagda, he can command its fairy-like inhabi- * 
tants, and his army is an army of spirits or fairies. The un- * 
known author of Kulhwch, like Spenser in modern times in 
his Faerie Queene, seems to have made the Island of Britain . 
the realm of Faerie — the Celtic Otherworld — and Arthur its • 
king. But let us take a look at more of the men pledged to 

Olwens as * Fair-Folk ' or of the Tylwyth Teg, and the quest of Kulhwch «. 
as really a journey to the Otherworld to gain a faiiry wife. >, 


Kulhwch from among Arthur's followers : Clust the son of 
Clustveinad, who possessed clairaudient faculties of so extra- 
ordinary a kind that ' though he were buried seven cubits 
beneath the earth, he would hear the ant fifty miles off rise 
from her nest in the morning ' ; and the wonderful Kai, 
who could live nine days and nine nights under water, for his 
breath lasted this long, and he could exist the same length 
of time without sleep. * A wound from Kai's sword no 
physician could heal.' And at will he was as tall as the 
highest tree in the forest. ' And he had another peculiarity : 
so great was the heat of his nature, that, when it rained 
hardest, whatever he carried remained dry for a hand- 
breadth above and a handbreadth below his hand ; and 
when his companions were coldest, it was to them as fuel 
with which to light their fire.' 

Yet besides all these strange knights, Arthur commanded 
a being who is without any reasonable doubt a god or ruler 
of the subjective realm — ' Gwynn ab Nudd, whom God has 
placed over the brood of devils in Annwn, lest they should 
destroy the present race. He will never be spared thence.* 
Whatever each one of us may think of this wonderful 
assembly of warriors and heroes who recognized in Arthur 
their chief, they are certainly not beings of the ordinary 
type, — in fact they seem not of this world, but of that 
hidden land to which we all shall one day journey.^ But to 
avoid too much conjecture and to speak with a degree of 
scientific exactness as to how Arthur and these companions 
of his are to be considered, let us undertake a brief investiga- 
tion into the mythological character and nature of the chief 
one of them next to the great hero — Gwynn ab Nudd. 
Professor J. Loth has said that ' nothing shows better the 
evolution of mythological personages than the history of 
Gwynn ' ; ^ and in Irish we have the equivalent form of 
Nudd in the name Nuada — famous for having had a hand 

' We may even have in the story of Kulhwch and Olwen a symbolical or i 
mystical account of ancient Brythonic rites of initiation, which have also i 
directly to do with the spiritual world and its invisible inhabitants. i 

' Cf. J. Loth, Les Mabinogion (Paris, 1889), p. 252 n. 


of silver ; and Nuada of the Silver Hand was a king of the , 
Tuatha De Danann. The same authority thus describes^ 
Gwynn, the son of Nudd : — ' Gwynn, like his father Nudd,# 
is an ancient god of the Britons and of the Gaels. Christian* 
priests have made of him a demon. The people persisted in • 
regarding him as a powerful and rich king, the sovereign r 
of supernatural beings.' ^ And referring to Gwynn, Pro-* 
fessor Loth in his early edition of Kulhwch says : — * Our 
author has had an original idea : he has left him in hell, to # 
which place Christianity had made him descend, but for a » 
motive which does him the greatest honour : God has given ♦ 
him the strength of demons to control them and to prevent ' 
them from destroying the present race of men : he is indis- » 
pensable down there.' ^ Lady Guest calls Gwynn the King •- 
of Faerie,^ the ruler of the Tylwyth Teg or * Family of Beauty*, » 
who are always joyful and well-disposed toward mortals ; * 
and also the ruler of the Elves (Welsh Ellyllon), a goblin ^ 
race who take special delight in misleading travellers and in • 
playing mischievous tricks on men. It is even said that - 
Gwynn himself is given to indulging in the same mischievous 
amusements as his elvish subjects. 

The evidence now set forth seems to suggest clearly and 
even definitely that Arthur in his true nature is a god of 
the subjective world, a ruler of ghosts, demons, and demon 
rulers, and fairies ; that the people of his court are more 
like the Irish Sidhe-iolk than like mortals ; and that as 
a great king he is comparable to Dagda the over-king of all 
the Tuatha De Danann. Arthur and Osiris, two culture 
heroes and sun-gods, as we suggested at first, are strikingly 
parallel. Osiris came from the Otherworld to this one, 
became the first Divine Ruler and Culture Hero of Egypt, 
and then returned to the Otherworld, where he is now a king. 
Arthur's father was a ruler in the Otherworld, and Arthur 
evidently came from there to be the Supreme Champion of 
the Brythons, and then returned to that realm whence he 

^ Cf. J. Loth, Le Mabinogi de Kulhwch et Olwen (Saint-Brieuc, 1888), 
Intro., p. 7. 

* Lady Ch. Guest's Mabinogion (London, 1849), ii. 323 n. 


took his origin, a realm which poets called Avalon. The 
passing of Arthur seems mystically to represent the sunset 
over the Western Ocean : Arthur disappears beneath the 
horizon into the Lower World which is also the Halls of 
Osiris, wherein Osiris journeys between sunset and sunrise, 
between death and re-birth. Merlin found the infant Arthur . 
floating on the waves : the sun rising across the waters is ? 
this birth of Arthur, the birth of Osiris. In the chapter on * 
Re-birth, evidence will be offered to show that as a culture • 
hero Arthur is to be regarded as a sun-god incarnate in * 
a human body to teach the Brythons arts and sciences and * 
hidden things — even as Prometheus and Zeus are said to have 
come to earth to teach the Greeks ; and that as a sixth- 
century warrior, Arthur, in accordance with the Celtic Doc- 1 
trine of Re-birth, is an ancient Brythonic hero reincarnate. « 

The Literary Evolution and the Antiquity of the 
Brythonic Fairy-Romances 

After the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, the 
ancient fairy-romances of the Brythons began to exercise 
their remarkable literary influence as we see it now in the 
evolution of the Arthurian Legend. And in this evolution 
of the Arthurian Legend we find the proof of the antiquity 
of the Brythonic Fairy-Faith, just as we find in the old 
Irish manuscripts the proof of the antiquity of the Gaelic 

Long before 1066, Gildas gives the first recorded germs of 
th^ Arthurian story in his De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae, 
though they are hardly distinguishable as such. His failure 
to mention the name of Arthur, though treating of the whole 
period when Arthur is supposed to have lived, he himself 
being contemporary with the period, raises the very difficult 
question which we have already mentioned. Did the mighty 
Brythonic hero ever have an actual historical existence ? 
Almost three hundred years later — a period sufficiently 
removed from Gildas to have made Arthur the supreme 
champion of the falling Brythons, granting that he did exist 
during the sixth century as a Brythonic chieftain — in the 



Historia Britonum, completed about the year 800, and 
attributed to Nennius, Arthur, for the first time in a known 
manuscript, is mentioned as a character of British history.^ 
All that can be definitely said of the narrative of Nennius * is 
that it represents more or less inconsistent British tradi- 
tions of uncertain age '.^ That it is not always historical, 
many scholars are agreed. Dr. R. H. Fletcher says, ' There 
is always the possibility that Arthur never existed at all, 
and that even Nennius's comparatively modest eulogy has 
no firmer foundation than the persistent stories of ancient 
Celtic myth or the patriotic figments of the ardent Celtic 
imagination.' ^ Sir John Rhys also propounds a similar 
view.^ Thus, for example, Nennius states that Arthur in 
one battle slew single handed more than nine hundred men ; 
and, again, that the number of Arthur's always-successful-* 
battles was twelve, as though Arthur were the sun or a sun- » 
god, and his battles the twelve months of the solar year.^ ' 
Between Nennius and Geoffrey of Monmouth there is an 
intermediate stage in the development of the Arthurian 
Legend, during which the character of Arthur tends to 
become more romantic ; but for our purpose this period is 
of slight importance. Thereafter, by means of Geoffrey's 
famous Historia Regum Britanniae, written about 1136, 
the Arthurian Legend gained popularity throughout Western 
Europe. In this work Arthur ceases to be purely historical, 
and appears as a great king enveloped in the mythical 
atmosphere of a Celtic hero, and with him Merlin and Lear 
are for the first time definitely enshrined in the literature 
of Britain.* Arthur's career is completely sketched in the 
Historia, from birth to his mysterious departure for the 
Isle of Avalon after the last fight with Modred, when fairy 

* Cf. R. H. Fletcher, Arthurian Material in the Chronicles , in Harv. 
Stud, and Notes in Phil, and Lit., x. 20-1. 

* Fletcher, ib., x. 29 ; 26. 

* Rhys, Arth. Leg., p. 7 ; and Rhys, The Welsh People* (London, 1902), 
p. 105. 

* Cf. Fletcher, op. cit., x. 43-115 ; from ed. by San-Marte (A. Schulz), 
Gottfried's von Monmouth Hist. Reg. Brit. (Halle, 1854), Eng. trans, by 
A, Thompson, The British History, &c. (1718). 


women take him to cure him of his wounds (Book XI, 1-2). 
Geoffrey, thus the father of the Arthurian Legend in EngHsh 
and European literature, was undoubtedly a Welshman 
who probably had natural opportunities of knowing the 
true character of Arthur from genuine Brythonic sources, 
though we know little about his life. His Historia, as the 
researches of scholars have shown, was the sum total in his 
time of all Arthurian history and myth, whether written or 
orally transmitted, which he could collect ; just as Malory's 
Le Morte d* Arthur was a compendium of Arthurian material 
in the time of Edward IV. 

There followed many imitations and translations of the 
Historia. The most important of these appeared in 1155, 
Le Roman de Brut or ' The Story of Brutus ', by the Norman 
poet Wace. The Brut, though fundamentally a rimed version 
of the Historia, is much more than a mere translation : 
Wace has improved on it ; and he gives a convincing 
impression that he had access to Celtic Arthurian stories not 
drawn upon by Geoffrey, for he gives new touches about 
Gawain, mentions the Britons' expectation of Arthur's 
return from Faerie, and the institution of the Round Table.^ 

Somewhere about the year 1200, Layamon, a simple- 
hearted Saxon priest, wrote another Brut, based upon the 
metrical one by Wace ; and in the literature of England, 
Layamon's work is the most valuable single production 
between the Conquest and Chaucer. The life of Layamon 
is very obscure, but it seems reasonably certain that for a 
long time he lived on the Welsh marches in North Worcester- 
shire, in the midst of living Brythonic traditions, which he 
used at first hand ; and, as a result, we find in his Brut 
legends not recorded in Geoffrey, or Wace, or in any earlier 
or contemporary literature. For our purposes the most 
interesting of many interesting additions made by Layamon 
are the curious passages about the fairy elves at Arthur's 
birth, and about the way in which Arthur was taken by 
them to their queen Argante in Avalon to be cured of his 
wounds : — * The time came that was chosen, then was 

* Cf. Fletcher, op. cit., pp. 117-44. 
Y 2 


Arthur born. So soon as he came on earth elves took him ; 
they enchanted the child into magic most strong ; they gave 
him might to be the best of all knights ; they gave him 
another thing, that he should be a rich king ; they gave 
him the third, that he should live long ; they gave to him 
the prince virtues most good, so that he was most generous of 
all men alive. This the elves gave him, and thus the child 
thrived.' ^ 

In the last fatal battle Modred is slain and Arthur is 
grievously wounded. As Arthur lies wounded, Constantine, 
Cador's son, the earl of Cornwall, and a relative of Arthur, 
comes to him. Arthur greets him with these words : — 
* ** Constantine, thou art welcome ; thou wert Cador's son. 
I give thee here my kingdom . . . And I will fare to Avalun, 
to the fairest of all maidens, to Argante the queen, and elf 
most fair, and she shall make my wounds all sound ; make 
me all whole with healing draughts. And afterwards I will 
come [again] to my kingdom, and dwell with the Britons 
with mickle joy." Even with the words, there approached 
from the sea that was, a short boat, floating with the waves ; 
and two women therein, wondrously formed ; and they took 
Arthur anon, and bare him quickly, and laid him softly 
down, and forth gan depart. Then it was accomplished that 
Merlin whilom said, that mickle care (sorrow) should be of 
Arthur's departure* The Britons believe that he is alive, 
and dwelleth in Avalun with the fairest of all elves ; and 
the Britons even yet expect when Arthur shall return.' ^ 

During this same period, Giraldus Cambrensis (i 147-1223) 
in his Itinerarium Cambriae (Book I, c. 8) collected a popular 
Otherworld tale. It is about a priest named Elidorus, who 
when a boy in Gower, the western district of Glamorgan- 
shire, had free passage between this world of ours and an 
underground country inhabited by a race of little people 
who spoke a language like Greek. This tends to prove that 

* Sir Frederic Madden, Layamon's Brut (London, 1847), ii. 384. Here 
the Germanic elves are by Layamon made the same in character and 
nature as Brythonic elves or fairies. 

* Madden, Layamon's Brut, ii. 144. 


the Fairy-Faith was then flourishing among the people of 

It was chiefly during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries 
that the Arthurian Legend as a thing of literature began to 
take definite shape. The old romances of the Brythons 
were cultivated and revised, and written down by men and 
women of literary genius. Chretien de Troyes, who recorded 
a large number of legendary stories in verse, Marie de 
France, famous for her Lais, Thomas, the author of the chief 
version of the Tristan legend, ^ Beroul, who recorded a less 
important version of this legend,^ and Robert de Boron, 
who did much to develop the legend of the Holy Grail, were 
among the greatest workers in the French Celtic Revival of 
this time. 

Professor Brown has shown that ' almost every incident 
in Chretien's Iwain was suggested by an ancient Celtic tale, 
dealing with the familiar theme of a journey to win a fairy 
mistress in the Otherworld.' ^ The fay whom Iwain marries 
is called Laudine ; and, like one of the fairies who live in 
sacred waters, she has her favourite fountain which the 
knight guards, as though he were the Black Knight in the 
old Welsh tale of The Lady of the Fountain. Both Gaston 
Paris and Alfred Nutt have also recognized the tale of 
Iwain as a fairy romance.* Professor Loth observes that, 
* It is not impossible that Chretien had known, among 
fairy legends, Armorican legends, concerning the fairies 
of waters, whose role is identical with that of the Welsh 
Tylwyth Teg.' ^ 

In Lanval, one of the Lais ^ by Marie de France, written 
during the twelfth century, probably while its author was 
living in England, we have direct proof that there was then 
flourishing in Brittany — well known to Marie de France, 

^ J. Bedier's ed., Socieie des anciens textes franfais (Paris, 1902). 
' E. Muret's ed., Societe des anciens textes franfais (Paris, 1903). 
' A. C. L. Brown, The Knight and the Lion ; also, by same author, Iwain, 
in Harv. Stud, and Notes in Phil, and Lit., vii. 146, &c. 

* Celtic Mag., xii. 555 ; Romania (1888) ; cf. Brown, ib. 

* J. Loth, Les Romans arthnriens, in Rev. Celt., xiii. 497. 

' Bibliotheca Normannica, iii. Die Lais der Marie de France, pp. 86-112. 


who was French by birth and training — a popular belief in 
fairy women who lived in the Other world, and who could - 
take mortals on whom their love fell. It is probable that the ' 
older lay, to which Marie de France refers in the beginning 
of her Lanval, may have been the anonymous one of Graelent, 
sometimes improperly attributed to her. Zimmer and 
Foerster place the origin of Graelent in Brittany ^ ; and the 
similarity of the h^oes in the two poems seems to be due 
to a very ancient Brythonic Fairy-Faith. Dr. Schofield sees 
in Graelent an older form of the more polished Lanval ; and 
remarks that the chief difference in the two lais is found in 
the way the hero meets the fairy women. In the case of 
Lanval, when he leaves the court, he goes to rest beside 
a river where two beautiful maidens come to him ; Graelent 
is alone in the woods when he sees a hind whiter than snow, 
and following it comes to a place where fairy damsels are 
bathing in a fountain. There seems to be no doubt that in 
both poems the maidens and damsels are fairies quite like / 
the Tuatha De Danann, with power to cast their spell over 
beautiful young men whom they wish to have for husbands. ' 
In Guingemor, another of the old Breton lays, ascribed by 
Gaston Paris to Marie de France, we find again fairy-romance 
episodes similar to those in Lanval and Graelent.^ The Lais 
of Marie de France had many imitators in England. Chaucer, 
too, has made it clear that he knew a good deal about the 
old Breton lais and their subjects or * matter ', for in the 
Prologue to the Frankeleyn's Tale he writes : — 

Thise olde gentil Britons in hir dayes 
Of diverse aventures maden layes, 
Rymeyed in hir firste Briton tonge. 

We may now briefly examine, in a general way, some of 
the most noteworthy of the more obscure, but for us impor- 
tant Old French fairy-romances of a kindred Brythonic or 
Arthurian character, called Romans d'Aventure and Romans 

^ Cf . W. H. Schofield, The Lays of Graelent and Lanval, and the Story of 
Way land, in Pub. Mod. Lang. Ass. of America, xv. 176. 

" Cf. Schofield, The Lay of Guingamor, in Haw. Stud, and Notes in Phi', 
and Lit., v. 221-2. 


Bretons, wherein fees appear or are mentioned : i. e. Le Bel 
Inconnu, Blancadin, Brun de la Montaigne, Claris et Laris, 
Dolopathos, Escanor, Floriant et Florete, Partonopeus, La 
Vengeance Ragiiidel, Joufrois, and Amada et Ydoine?- In 
these romances, fairies commonly appear as most beautiful 
supernormal women who love mortal heroes. They are seen 
chiefly at night, frequenting forests and fountains, and like 
all fairies disappear at or before cock-crow. They are skilled 
in magic and astrology ; like the Greek Fates, some of them 
spin and weave and have great influence over the lives of 
mankind. They are represented as relatively immortal, so ; 
long is their span of life compared to ours ; but, ultimately, ^ 
they seem to be subject to a change such as we call death. ' 
This indeed is never specifically mentioned, only implied by , 
the statements that they enjoy childhood and then woman- ^ 
hood, being thus created and not eternal beings. Some ' 
are very prominent figures, like M or gain la Fee, Arthur's 
sister. In most cases they are beneficent, and frequently, 
act as guardian spirits for their special hero, just as the/ 
Lake Lady for Arthur and the Morrigu for Cuchulainn. So * 
strong is the faith in these fees that a man meeting unusual . 
success is often described as feed — that is endowed with • 
fairy power or under fairy protection, as Perceval's adver-/* 
sary, the Knight of the Dragon, states.^ In Joufrois, too, 
the power of the fairies, or else the special protection of God, 
is considered the cause of success in arms.^ In Brun de la 
Montaigne, Morgain la Fee is represented as the cousin of 
Arthur ; and Butor, the father of Brun, mentions several 
localities in different lands, which, like the Forest of Broce- 
liande in Brittany, the chief theatre of this romance, are 
fairy haunts ; and he names them as being under the 

1 For editions, and fuller details of the fairy elements, see De La Warr 
B. Easter, A Study of the Magic Elements in the Romans d'Aventure and 
the Romans Bretons (Johns Hopkins Univ., Baltimore, 1906). See also 
Lucy A. Paton, Studies in the Fairy Mythology of the Arthurian Romance, 
Radcliffe College Monograph XIII (New York, 1903). 

* Perc, vi. 235 ; cf. Easter's Dissertation, p. 42 n. 

• Joufrois, 3179 fif.; ed. Hofmann und Muncker (Halle, 1880); cf. 
Easter's Diss., pp. 40-2 n. 


dominion of Arthur, who is described as a great fairy 

Such fairy romances as the above (and they are but 
a few examples selected from among a vast number) often 
localized in Brittany, raise the perplexing and far-reaching 
problem concerning the origin of the ' Matter of Britain '. The 
most reasonable position to take with respect to this problem 
would seem to be that Celtic traditions flourished wherever 
there were Gaels and Brythons, that there was much inter- 
change of these traditions between one Celtic country and 
another — especially between Wales and Ireland and across 
the channel between Brittany and South England, including 
Cornwall and Wales, both before and after the Christian era. 
Further, the Arthurian fairy-romances, based upon such 
interchanged Celtic traditions, grew up with a Brythonic 
background, chiefly after the Norman Conquest, both in 
Armorica and in Britain, and became in the later Middle 
Ages one of the chief glories of English and of European 

In concluding this slight examination of Brythonic fairy- 
romances, we may very briefly suggest by means of a few 
selected examples what fairies are like in the Mahinogion 
stories and in the Four Ancient Books of Wales. Kulhwch 
and Olwen, the chief literary treasure-house of ancient 
magical and mystical Otherworld and fairy traditions of the 
Brythons, which we have already considered in relation to 
Arthur, * appears to be built upon Arthurian and other 
legends of native growth.' ^ Unmistakable Welsh parallels 
to the Irish fairy-belief appear in the Mahinogi of Pwyll, 
Prince of Dyfed, where the two chief incidents are Pwyll's 
journey to the Otherworld after he and Arawn its ruler have 
exchanged shapes and kingdoms for a year, and the marriage 
of Pwyll to a fairy damsel ; in the Mahinogi of Manawyddan, 
which contains much magic and shape-shifting, and the 

J Bmn, 562 fif., 3237, 3251, 3396, 3599 ff. ; ed. Paul Meyer (Paris, 1875) ; 
cf. ib., pp. 42 n., 44 n. 

• E. Anwyl, The Four Branches of the Mahinogi, in Zeit. fiir Celt. Phil. 
(London, Paris, 1897), i. 278. 


description of a fairy castle belonging to Llwyd ; and in the 
Mabinogi of Branwen, the Daughter of Llyr, where there is 
the episode of the seven-year feast at Harlech over the Head 
of Bran, during which the Birds of Rhiannon's realm sing 
so sweetly that time passes abnormally fast. The subject- 
matter of the four true Mahinogion (composed before the 
eleventh century) is, as Sir John Rhys has pointed out, the 
fortunes of three clans of superhuman beings comparable 
to the Irish Tuatha De Danann : (i) the Children of Llyr, (2) 
the Children of Don, (3) and the Family of Pwyll.^ Herein, 
then, the ancient Gaelic and Brythonic Fairy-Faiths coincide, 
and show the unity of the Celtic race which evolved them. 
In the Four Ancient Books of Wales, which are poetical 
compositions, whereas the Mahinogion tales are prose with 
extremely little verse, there are certain interesting passages 
to illustrate the ancient Fairy-Faith of the Brythons from 
some of its purest sources. The first selected example comes 
from the Black Book of Caermarthen. It is a poem, some- 
times called the Avallenau, from among the poems relating 
to the Battle of Arderydd ; and it represents Myrddin or 
Merlin, the famous magician of Arthur, quite at the mercy 
of sprites. The passage is an interesting one as showing that 
in the region where Merlin is supposed to be under the 
enchantment of the fairy woman Vivian he was regarded 
as no longer able to exercise his wonted control over spirits 
like fairies. As in ancient non-Celtic belief, where the loss s 
of chastity in a magician, that is to say in one able to com- ' 
mand certain orders of invisible beings, always leads to his * 
falling under their lawless power, so was it with Merlin when ' 
overcome by Vivian. And this is Merlin's lamentation : — 

Ten years and forty, as the toy of lawless ones, 
Have I been wandering in gloom among sprites. 
After wealth in abundance and entertaining minstrels, 
I have been [here so long that] it is useless for gloom and 
sprites to lead me astray.^ 

^ Cf. Nutt, Voy. of Bran, ii. 19, 21. 

* Black Book of Caermarthen, xvii, stanza 7, 11. 5-8. This book dates 
from 1 1 54 to 1 189 as a manuscript; cf. Skene, Four Anc. Books, i. 3, 372. 


In a dialogue between Myrddin and his sister Gwenddydd, 
contained in the Red Book of Hergest 1} there is a curious 
reference to ghosts of the mountain who, just Hke fairies 
that live in the mountains, steal away men's reason when 
they strike them, — in death which may appear natural, in 
sickness, or in accident. And after his death — after he has 
been taken by these ghosts of the mountain — Myrddin 
returns as a ghost and speaks from the grave a prophecy 
which * the ghost of the mountain in Aber Carav ' ^ told 
him. Not only do these passages prove the Celtic belief in 
ghosts like fairies to have existed anciently in Wales ; but 
they show also that the recorded Fairy-Faith of the Bry- 
thons, like that of the Gaels of Ireland and Scotland, directly 
attests and confirms our Psychological Theory. Like a 
record from the official proceedings of the Psychical Research 
Society itself, they form one of the strongest proofs that 
fairies, ghosts, and shades were confused, all alike, in the 
mind of the Welsh poet, mingling together in that realm 
where mortals see with a new vision, and exist with a body 
invisible to us. 

Our study of the literary evolution of the Brythonic 
fairy-romances shows that as early as about the year 800 
Arthurian traditions were known, though possibly Arthur 
himself never had historical existence. By about 1136, 
when Geoffrey's famous Historia appeared, these traditions 
were already highly developed in Britain, and Arthur had 
become a great Brythonic hero enveloped in a halo of 
romance and myth, and, as an Otherworld being, was 
definitely related to Avalon and its fairy inhabitants. This 
new literary material of Celtic origin opened up to Europe 
by Geoffrey rapidly began to influence profoundly the form 
of continental as well as English poetry and prose, chiefly 
through the writers of the Norman-French period of the 
twelfth and thirteenth centuries. In itself it was in no wise 

* stanzas 19-20. This book took shape as a manuscript from the four- 
teenth to fifteenth century, according to Skene. Cf. Skene, Four Anc. 
Books, i. 3, 464. 

' See A Fugitive Poem of Myrddin in his Grave. Red Book of Hergest^ ii. 
Skene, ib., i. 478-81, stanza 27. 


essentially different from what we find as fairy romances in 
the old Irish manuscripts written during the same and 
earlier periods. Welsh literature, however it may be related 
to Irish, shows a common origin with it. The four true 
Mahinogion as stories are earlier than iioo ; Kulhwch and 
Olwen in its present form most probably dates from the 
latter half of the twelfth century ; the Four Ancient Books 
of Wales date from the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries as 
manuscripts. In both ancient and modern times there was 
much interchange of material between Irish Gaels and 
Brythons ; and Brittany as well as Britain and Ireland 
undoubtedly contributed to the evolution of the complex 
fairy romances which formed the germ of the Arthurian 

When we stop to consider how long it may have taken 
the Brythonic Fairy-Faith, as well as that of the Gaels, to 
become so widespread and popular among the Celtic peoples 
that it could take such definite shape as it now shows in all 
the oldest manuscripts in different languages, we can easily 
wander backward into periods of enlightenment and civiliza- 
tion beyond the horizon of our little fragments of recorded 
history. Who can tell how many ages ago the Fairy-Faith 
began its first evolution, or who can say that there was ever 
a Celt who did not believe in, or know about fairies ? 



'In Ireland this world and the world we go to after death are not far 
apart.' — W. B. Yeats. 

' Many go to the Tir-na-nog in sleep, and some are said to have remained 
there, and only a vacant form is left behind without the light in the eyes 
which marks the presence of a soul.' — A. E. 

General ideas of the Other world : its location ; its subjectivity ; its 
names ; its extent ; Tethra one of its kings — The Silver Branch and 
the Golden Bough ; and Initiations — The Otherworld the Heaven- 
World of all religions — Voyage of Bran — Cormac in the Land of 
Promise — Magic Wands — Cuchulainn's Sick-Bed — Ossian's return 
from Fairyland — Lanval's going to Avalon — Voyage of Mael-Duin 
— Voyage of Teigue — Adventures of Art — Cuchulainn's and Arthur's 
Otherworld Quests — Literary Evolution of idea of Happy Other- 

General Description 

The Heaven-World of the ancient Celts, unlike that of 
the Christians, was not situated in some distant, unknown 
region of planetary space, but here on our own earth. As 
it was necessarily a subjective world, poets could only 
describe it in terms more or less vague ; and its exact 
geographical location, accordingly, differed widely in the 
minds of scribes from century to century. Sometimes, as 
is usual to-day in fairy-lore, it was a subterranean world 
entered through caverns, or hills, or mountains, and inhabited 
by many races and orders of invisible beings, such as demons, » 
shades, fairies, or even gods. And the underground world ^ 

* Chief general references : H. D'Arbois de Jubainville, L' Epopee cel- 
iique en Irlande, Le Cycle Mythologique Irlandais ; Kuno Meyer and Alfred 
Nutt, The Happy Otherworld and the Celtic Doctrine of Re-birth. Chief 
sources: the Leahhar na h-Uidhre (a.d. hoc); the Book of Leinster 
(twelfth century) ; the Lais of Marie de France (twelfth to thirteenth 
century) ; the White Booh of Rhyderch, Hengwrt Coll. (thirteenth to four- 
teenth century) ; the Yellow Book of Lecan (fifteenth century) ; the 
Book ofLismore (fifteenth century) ; the Book of Fermoy (fifteenth century) ; 
the Four Ancient Books of Wales (twelfth to fifteenth century). 


of the Sidhe-iolk, which cannot be separated from it, was ^ 
divided into districts or kingdoms under different fairy kings ^ 
and queens, just as the upper world of mortals. We already 
know how the Tuatha De Danann or Sidhe-iolk, after their 
defeat by the Sons of Mil at the Battle of Tailte, retired 
to this underground world and took possession of its palaces 
beneath the green hills and vales of Ireland ; and how from 
there, as gods of the harvest, they still continued to exercise 
authority over their conquerors, or marshalled their own 
invisible spirit-hosts in fairy warfare, and sometimes inter- 
fered in the wars of men. 

More frequently, in the old Irish manuscripts, the Celtic 
Otherworld was located in the midst of the Western Ocean, 
as though it were the * double ' of the lost Atlantis ; ^ and 
Manannan Mac Lir, the Son of the Sea — perhaps himself - 
the ' double ' of an ancient Atlantean king — was one of the 
divine rulers of its fairy inhabitants, and his palace, for he 
was one of the Tuatha De Danann, was there rather than in 
Ireland ; and when he travelled between the two countries 
it was in a magic chariot drawn by horses who moved over 
the sea- waves as on land. And fairy women came from 
that mid-Atlantic world in magic boats like spirit boats, to 
charm away such mortal men as in their love they chose, 
or else to take great Arthur wounded unto death. And in 
that island world there was neither death nor pain nor 

* One of the commonest legends among all Celtic peoples is about some 
lost city like the Breton Is, or some lost land or island (cf. Rhys, Arih. 
Leg., c. XV, and Celtic Folk-Lore, c. vii) ; and we can be quite sure that if, 
as some scientists now begin to think (cf . Batella, Pruebas geologicas de la 
existencia de la Atldntida, in Congreso internacional de Americanistas, iv., 
Madrid, 1882; also Meyers, Grosses Konversations-Lexikon, ii. 44, Leipzig 
und Wien, 1903) Atlantis once existed, its disappearance must have left 
from a prehistoric epoch a deep impress on folk-memory. But the Other- 
world idea being in essence animistic is not to be regarded, save from a super- 
ficial point of view, as conceivably having had its origin in a lost Atlantis. 
The real evolutionary process, granting the disappearance of this island 
continent, would seem rather to have been one of localizing and anthropo- 
morphosing very primitive Aryan and pre- Aryan beliefs about a heaven- 
world, such as have been current among almost all races of mankind in all 
stages of culture, throughout the two Americas and Polynesia as well as 
throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa. (Cf. Tylor, Prim. Cult.* ii. 62, 
48, &c.) 


scandal, nought save immortal and unfading youth, and 
endless joy and feasting. 

Even yet at rare intervals, like a phantom, Hy Brasil 
appears far out on the Atlantic. No later than the summer 
of 1908 it is said to have been seen from West Ireland, just 
as that strange invisible island near Innishmurray, inhabited 
by the invisible * gentry ', is seen — once in seven years. 
And too many men of intelligence testify to having seen 
Hy Brasil at the same moment, when they have been to- 
gether, or separated, as during the summer of 1908, for it to 
be explained away as an ordinary illusion of the senses. 
Nor can it be due to a mirage such as we know, because 
neither its shape nor position seems to conform to any 
known island or land mass. The Celtic Otherworld is like 
that hidden realm of subjectivity lying just beyond the 
horizon of mortal existence, which we cannot behold when 
we would, save with the mystic vision of the Irish seer. 
Thus in the legend of Bran's friends, who sat over dinner at 
Harlech with the Head of Bran for seven years, three curious 
birds acted as musicians, the Three Birds of Rhiannon, » 
which were said to sing the dead back to life and the living * 
into death ; — but the birds were not in Harlech, they were 
out over the sea in the atmosphere of Rhiannon's realm in 
the bosom of Cardigan Bay.^ And though we mighjLsay of 
that Otherwojrld, as we learn from these Three Birds of 
Rhiannon, and as Socrates would say, that its inhabitant^* 
are come from the living and the living in our world from the ' 
dead there, yet^ as has already been set forth in chapter iv, we 
ought not to think of the Sidhe-id\k, nor of such great heroes 
and gods as Arthur and Cuchulainn and Finn, who are also of 
its invisible company, as in any sense half-conscious shades ; 
for they are always represented as being in the full enjoyment 
of an existence and consciousness greater than our own^ 

In Irish manuscripts, the Otherworld beyond the Ocean 
bears many names. It is Tir-na-nog, * The Land of Youth ' ; ' 
Tir-Innamhio, * The Land of the Living ' ; Tir Tairngire, 

1 White Book of Ehyderch, folio 291* ; cf. Rhys, Arth. Leg., pp. 268-9. 


' The Land of Promise ' ; Tir N-aill, ' The Other Land (or 
World) ' ; Mag Mar, ' The Great Plain ' ; and also Mag 
Mell, ' The Plain Agreeable (or Happy).' ^ 

But this western Otherworld, if it is what we believe it 
to be — a poetical picture of the great subjective world — 
cannot be the realm of any one race of invisible beings to 
the exclusion of another. In it all alike — gods, Tuatha De 
Danann, fairies, demons, shades, and every sort of disem- • 
bodied spirits — find their appropriate abode ; for though it 
seems to surround and interpenetrate this planet even as 
the X-rays interpenetrate matter, it can have no other 
limits than those of the Universe itself. And that it is not 
an exclusive realm is certain from what our old Irish manu- 
scripts record concerning the Fomorian races. ^ These, when 
they met defeat on the battle-field of Moytura at the hands 
of the Tuatha De Danann, retired altogether from Ireland, 
their overthrow being final, and returned to their own 
invisible country — a mysterious land beyond the Ocean, 
where the dead find a new existence, and where their god- 
king Tethra ruled, as he formerly ruled in this world. And 
the fairy women of Tethra's kingdom, even like those who 
came from the Tuatha De Danann of Erin, or those of 
Manannan's ocean-world, enticed mortals to go with them 
to be heroes under their king, and to behold there the assem- 
blies of ancestors. It was one of them who came to Connla, 
son of Conn, supreme king of Ireland ; and this was lier 
message to him : — * The immortals invite you. You are 
going to be one of the heroes of the people of Tethra. 
You will always be seen there, in the assemblies of your* 
ancestors, in the midst of those who know and love you.'* 
And with the fairy spell upon him the young prince entered 
the glass boat of the fairy woman, and his father the king, 
in great tribulation and wonder, beheld them disappear 
across the waters never to return.^ 

1 From Echtra Condla, in the Leabhar na h-Uidhre. Cf. Le Cycle Myth. 
/W., pp. 192-3. 


The Silver Branch ^ and the Golden Bough 

To enter the Otherworld before the appointed hour ^ 
marked by death, a passport was often necessary, and this ' 
was usually a silver branch of the sacred apple-tree bearing ^ 
blossoms, or fruit, which the queen of the Land of the Ever- * 
Living and Ever-Young gives to those mortals whom she ' 
wishes for as companions ; though sometimes, as we shall ' 
see, it was a single apple without its branch. The queen's f 
gifts serve not only as passports, but also as food and drink ^ 
for mortals who go with her. Often the apple-branch pro- -9 
duces music so soothing that mortals who hear it forget all^ 
troubles and even cease to grieve for those whom the fairy 
women take. For us there are no episodes more important , 
than those in the ancient epics concerning these apple-tree 
talismans, because in them we find a certain key which 
unlocks the secret of that world from which such talismans t 
are brought, and proves it to be the same sort of a place as > 
the Otherworld of the Greeks and Romans. Let us then ' 
use the key and make a few comparisons between the Silver 
Branch of the Celts and the Golden Bough of the Ancients, 
expecting the two symbols naturally to differ in their func- 
tions, though not fundamentally. 

It is evident at the outset that the Golden Bough was as 
much the property of the queen of that underworld called 
Hades as the Silver Branch was the gift of the Celtic fairy 
queen, and like the Silver Bough it seems to have been.# 
the symbolic bond between that world and this, offered as » 
a tribute to Proserpine by all initiates, who made the mystic ♦ 
voyage in full human consciousness. And, as we suspect, • 
there may be even in the ancient Celtic legends of mortals 
who make that strange voyage to the Western Otherworld 
and return to this world again, an echo of initiatory rites — f 
perhaps druidic — similar to those of Proserpine as shown # 
in the journey of Aeneas, which, as Virgil records it, is^' 
undoubtedly a poetical rendering of an actual psychic ' 
experience of a great initiate. 

* Cf. Eleanor Hull, The Silver Bough in Irish Legend, in Folk-Lore, xii. 


In Virgil's classic poem the Sibyl commanded the plucking 
of the sacred bough to be carried by Aeneas when he entered 
the underworld ; for without such a bough plucked near the - 
entrance to Avernus from the wondrous tree sacred to ' 
Infernal Juno (i. e. Proserpine) none could enter Pluto's t 
realm.^ And when Charon refused to ferry Aeneas across 
the Stygian lake until the Sibyl-woman drew forth the 
Golden Bough from her bosom, where she had hidden it, 
it becomes clearly enough a passport to Hades, just as the 
Silver Branch borne by the fairy woman is a passport to 
Tir N-aill ; and the Sibyl- woman who guided Aeneas to the , 
Greek and Roman Otherworld takes the place of the fairy , 
woman who leads mortals like Bran to the Celtic Other- , 
world. 2 

The Otherworld Idea Literally Interpreted 

With this parallel between the Otherworld of the Celts 
and that of the Ancients seemingly established, we may 
leave poetical images and seek a literal interpretation for the 
animistic idea about those realms. The Rites of Proserpine 
as conducted in the Mysteries of Antiquity furnish us 
with the means ; and in what Servius has written we have 
the material ready. ^ Taking the letter Y» which Pythagoras ♦ 
said is like life with its dividing ways of good and evil, as the ' 
mystic symbol of the branch which all initiates like Aeneas • 
offered to Proserpine in the subjective world while there out 
of the physical body, he says of the initiatory rites : — * He 
(the poet) could not join the Rites of Proserpine without 
having the branch to hold up. And by " going to the shades " • 
he (the poet) means celebrating the Rites of Proserpine.' ^ 
This passage is certainly capable of but one meaning ; and 

* Cf. Eleanor Hull, op. cit., p. 431. 

' Classical parallels to the Celtic Otherworld journeys exist in the » 
descent of Dionysus to bring back Semele, of Orpheus to recover his » 
beloved Eurydike, of Herakles at the command of his master Eurystheus * 
to fetch up the three-headed Kerberos — as mentioned first in Homer's* 
Iliad (cf. Tylor, Prim. Cult.,* ii. 48); and chiefly in the voyage of Odysseus » 
across the deep-flowing Ocean to the land of the departed (Homer, Odyss. xi). 

' Servius, ad Aen., vi. 136 ff. 



we may perhaps assume that the invisible realm of the 
Ancients, which is called Hades, is like the Celtic Other- 1 
world located in the Western Ocean, and is also like, or has * 
its mythological counterpart in, the Elysian Fields to the 
West, reserved by the Greeks and Romans for their gods 
and heroes, and in the Happy Otherworld of Scandinavian, 
Iranian, and Indian mythologies. It must then follow that 
all these realms — though placed in different localities by 
various nations, epochs, traditions, scribes, and poets (even 
as the under-ground world of the Tuatha De Danann in 
Ireland differs from that ruled over by one of their own race, 
Manannan the Son of the Sea) — are simply various ways 
which different Aryan peoples have had of looking at that 
one great invisible realm of which we have just spoken, 
and which forms the Heaven world of every religion, Aryan , 
and non- Aryan, known to man. And if this conclusion is 
accepted, and it seems that it must be, merely on the evi- 
dence of the literary or recorded Celtic Fairy-Faith, our 
Psychological Theory stands proven. • 

The Rites of Proserpine had many counterparts. Thus, 
to pass on to another parallel, in the Mysteries of Eleusis r 
the disappearance of the Maiden into the under-world, into * 
Hades, the land of the dead, was continually re-enacted in > 
a sacred drama, and it no doubt was one of the principal rites » 
attending initiation. In our study of the Celtic Doctrine of » 
Re-birth, we shall return to this subject of Celtic Initiation. 

The Voyage of Bran, Son of Febal 

We are well prepared now to enjoy the best known voyages 
which men, heroes, and god-men, are said to have made to 
Avalon, or the Land of the Living, through the invitation of 
a fairy woman or else of the god Manannan himself ; and 
probably the most famous is that of the Voyage of Bran, 
Son of Febal, as so admirably translated from the original 
old Irish saga by Dr. Kuno Meyer.^ Perhaps in all Celtic 

* Voy. of Bran, i, pp. 2 £f. The tale is based on seven manuscripts 
ranging in age from the Leabhar na h-Uidhre of about a.d. i 100 to six 
others belonging to the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries (cf. 
ib., p. xvi). 


literature no poem surpasses this in natural and simple 

One day Bran heard strange music behind him as he was 
alone in the neighbourhood of his stronghold ; and as he 
listened, so sweet was the sound that it lulled him to sleep. 
When he awoke, there lay beside him a branch of silver so 
white with blossoms that it was not easy to distinguish the 
blossoms from the branch. Bran took up the branch and 
carried it to the royal house, and, when the hosts were 
assembled therein, they saw a woman in strange raiment 
standing on the floor. Whence she came and how, no one 
could tell. And as they all beheld her, she sang fifty quatrains 
to Bran : — 

A branch of the apple-tree from Emain 
I bring, like those one knows ; 
Twigs of white silver are on it, 
Crystal brows with blossoms. 

There is a distant isle, 

Around which sea-horses glisten : 

A fair course against the white-swelling surge, — 

Four feet uphold it. 

When the song was finished, ' the woman went from them 
while they knew not whither she went. And she took her 
branch with her. The branch sprang from Bran's hand into 
the hand of the woman, nor was there strength in Bran's 
hand to hold the branch.* The next day, with the fairy 
spell upon him. Bran begins the voyage towards the setting 
sun. On the ocean he meets Manannan riding in his magic 
chariot over the sea-waves ; and the king tells Bran that 
he is returning to Ireland after long ages. Parting from the 
Son of the Sea, Bran goes on, and the first island he and his 
companions reach is the ' Island of Joy ', where one of the 
party is set ashore ; the second isle is the ' Land of Women ', 
where the queen draws Bran and his followers to her realm 
with a magic clew, and then entertains them for what seems 
no more than a year, though * it chanced to be many years '. 
After a while, home-sickness seizes the adventurers and they 



come to a unanimous decision to return to Ireland ; but 
they depart under a taboo not to set foot on earth, or 
at least not till holy water has been sprinkled on them. 
In their coracle they arrive before a gathering at Srub 
Brain, probably in West Kerry, and Bran (who may now 
possibly be regarded as an apparition temporarily returned 
from the Otherworld to bid his people farewell) announces 
himself, and this reply is made to him : — * We do not know 
such a one, though the Voyage of Bran is in our ancient 
stories.' Then one of Bran's party, in his eagerness to land, 
broke the taboo ; he * leaps from them out of the coracle. 
As soon as he touched the earth of Ireland, forthwith he 
was a heap of ashes, as though he had been in the earth 
for many hundred years. . . . Thereupon, to the people of 
the gathering. Bran told all his wanderings from the 
beginning until that time. And he wrote these quatrains 
in Ogam, and then bade them farewell. And from that 
hour his wanderings are not known.' 

CoRMAc's Adventure in the Land of Promise ^ 

In Cormac's Adventure in the Land of Promise, there is 
again a magic silver branch with three golden apples on 
it : — * One day, at dawn in May-time, Cormac, grandson of 
Conn, was alone on Mur Tea in Tara. He saw coming 
towards him a sedate (?), grey-headed warrior. . . . A branch 
of silver with three golden apples on his shoulder. Delight 
and amusement to the full was it to listen to the music of 
that branch, for men sore wounded, or women in child-bed, 
or folk in sickness, would fall asleep at the melody when that 
branch was shaken.' And the warrior tells Cormac that he 
has come from a land where only truth is known, where 
there is * neither age nor decay nor gloom nor sadness nor 
envy nor jealousy nor hatred nor haughtiness '. On his 
promising the unknown warrior any three boons that he 
shall ask, Cormac is given the magic branch. The grey- 

* This tale exists in several manuscripts of the fourteenth and fifteenth 
centuries; i.e. Book of Bally mote y and Yellow Book of Lecan, as edited and 
translated by Stokes, in Irische Texte, III. i. 183-229 ; of. Voy. of Bran, i. 
190 ft. ; of. Le Cycle Myth. Jrl., pp. 326-33. 


headed warrior disappears suddenly ; * and Cormac knew 
not whither he had gone.' 

* Cormac turned into the palace. The household mar- 
velled at the branch. Cormac shook it at them, and cast 
them into slumber from that hour to the same time on the 
following day. At the end of a year the warrior comes into 
his meeting and asked of Cormac the consideration for his 
branch. ** It shall be given," says Cormac. " I will take 
[thy daughter] Ailbe to-day," says the warrior. So he took 
the girl with him. The women of Tara utter three loud 
cries after the daughter of the king of Erin. But Cormac 
shook the branch at them, so that he banished grief from 
them all and cast them into sleep. That day month comes 
the warrior and takes with him Carpre Lifechair (the son 
of Cormac). Weeping and sorrow ceased not in Tara after 
the boy, and on that night no one therein ate or slept, and 
they were in grief and in exceeding gloom. But Cormac 
shook the branch at them, and ^ they parted from [their] 
sorrow. The same warrior comes again. " What askest 
thou to-day ? " says Cormac. " Thy wife," saith he, *' even 
Ethne the Longsided, daughter of Dunlang king of Leinster." 
Then he takes away the woman with him.' Thereupon 
Cormac follows the messenger, and all his people go with 
him. But ' a great mist was brought upon them in the midst 
of the plain of the wall. Cormac found himself on a great 
plain alone'. It is the 'Land of Promise'. Palaces of 
bronze, and houses of white silver thatched with white 
birds' wings are there. ' Then he sees in the garth a shining 
fountain, with five streams flowing out of it, and the hosts 
in turn a-drinking its water. Nine hazels of Buan grow over 
the well. The purple hazels drop their nuts into the foun- 
tain, and the five salmon which are in the fountain sever 
them, and send their husks floating down the streams. 
Now the sound of the falling of those streams is more melo- 
dious than any music that [men] sing.' ^ 

* The fountain is a sacred fountain containing the sacred salmon ; and 
the nine hazels are the sacred hazels of inspiration and poetry. These 
passages are among the most mystical in Irish literature. Cf. pp. 432-3. 


Cormac having entered the fairy palace at the fountain 
beholds * the loveliest of the world's women '. After she has 
been magically bathed, he bathes, and this, apparently, is " 
symbolical of his purification in the Otherworld. Finally, ^ 
at a feast, the warrior-messenger sings Cormac to sleep ; and » 
when Cormac awakes he sees beside him his wife and chil- « 
dren, who had preceded him thither to the Land of Promise. * 
The warrior-messenger who took them all is none other than 
the great god Manannan Mac Lir of the Tuatha De Danann. 

There in the Otherworld, Cormac gains a magic cup of " 
gold richly and wondrously wrought, which would break ' 
into three pieces if ' three words of falsehood be spoken 
under it ', and the magic silver branch ; and Manannan, as 
the god-initiator, says to Ireland's high king : — ' Take thy « 
family then, and take the Cup that thou may est have it for 
discerning between truth and falsehood. And thou shalt 
have the Branch for music and delight. And on the day ' 
that thou shalt die they all will be taken from thee. I am * 
Manannan, son of Ler, king of the Land of Promise ; and 
to see the Land of Promise was the reason I brought [thee'] f 
hither. . . . The fountain which thou sawest, with the five ^ 
streams out of it, is the Fountain of Knowledge, and the ' 
streams are the five senses through which knowledge is * 
obtained (?). And no one will have knowledge who drinketh • 
not a draught out of the fountain itself and out of the streams. • 
The folk of many arts are those who drink of them both.' ' 

* Now on the morrow morning, when Cormac arose, he 
found himself on the green of Tara, with his wife and his 
son and daughter, and having his Branch and his Cup. 
Now that was afterwards [called] " Cormac's Cup ", and it 
used to distinguish between truth and falsehood with the 
Gael. Howbeit, as had been promised him [by Manannan], 
it remained not after Cormac's death.' ^ 

This beautiful tale evidently echoes in an extremely 
poetical and symbolical manner a very ancient Celtic initia- - 
tion of a king and his family into the mystic cult of the * 
mighty god Manannan, Son of the Sea. They enter the * 

^ Cf. Stokes's trans, in Irische Texte (Leipzig, 1891), III. i. 211-16. 


Otherworld in a trance state, and on waking are in Erin* 
again, spiritually enriched. The Cup of Truth is probably ' 
the symbol of having gained knowledge of the Mystery of* 
Life and Death, and the Branch, that of the Peace and Joy ' 
which comes to all who are truly Initiated ; for to have ' 
passed from the realm of mortal existence to the Realm of 
the Dead, of the Fairy-Folk, of the Gods, and back again, 
with full human consciousness all the while, was equivalent 
to having gained the Philosopher's Stone, the Elixir of Life, » 
the Cup of Truth, and to having bathed in the Fountain of » 
Eternal Youth which confers triumph over Death and* 
unending happiness. Thus we may have here a Celtic 
poetical parallel to the initiatory journey of Aeneas to the • 
Land of the Dead or Hades. * 

The Magic Wand of Gods, Fairies, and Druids 

Manannan of the Tuatha De Danann, as a god-messenger 
from the invisible realm bearing the apple-branch of silver, 
is in externals, though not in other ways, like Hermes, the * 
god-messenger from the realm of the gods bearing his wand « 
of two intertwined serpents.^ In modern fairy-lore this 
divine branch or wand is the magic wand of fairies ; or . 
where messengers like old men guide mortals to an under- 1 
world it is a staff or cane with which they strike the rock ' 
hiding the secret entrance. 

The Irish Druids made their wands of divination from the 

* The Greeks saw in Hermes the symbol of the Logos. Like Manannan, 
he conducted the souls of men to the Otherworld of the gods, and then 
brought them back to the human world. Hermes ' holds a rod in his 
hands, beautiful, golden, wherewith he spellbinds the eyes of men whom- 
soever he would, and wakes them again from sleep ' — in initiations ; while 
Manannan and the fairy beings lure mortals to the fairy world through 
sleep produced by the music of the Silver Branch, — Hippolytus on the 
Naasenes (from the Hebrew Nachash^ meaning a ' Serpent '), a Gnostic 
school; cf. G. R. S. Mead, Fragments of a Faith Forgotten, pp. 198, 201. 
Or again, ' the Caduceus, or Rod of Mercury (Hermes), and the Thyrsus in 
the Greek Mysteries, which conducted the soul from life to death, and from 
death to life, figured forth the serpentine power in man, and the path 
whereby it would carry the " man " aloft to the height, if he would but 
cause the " Waters of the Jordan " to " flow upwards ".' — G. R. S. Mead, 
ib., p. 185. 


yew-tree ; and, like the ancient priests of Egypt, Greece, and 
Rome, are believed to have controlled spirits, fairies, daemons, 
elementals, and ghosts while making such divinations. It 
will help us to understand how closely the ancient symbols 
have affected our own life and age — though we have for- 
gotten their relation with the Otherworld — by offering a few 
examples, beginning with the ancient Irish bards who were 
associated with the Druids. A wand in the form of a 
symbolic branch, like a little spike or crescent with gently 
tinkling bells upon it, was borne by them ; and in the piece 
called Mesca Ulad or ' Inebriety of the Ultonians ' ^ it is 
said of the chief bard of Ulster, Sencha, that in the midst 
of a bloody fray he * waved the peaceful branch of Sencha, 
and all the men of Ulster were silent, quiet '. In Agallamh 
an da Shuadh or the * Dialogue of the two Sages ',2 the mystic 
symbol used by gods, fairies, magicians, and by all initiates 
who know the mystery of life and death, is thus described 
as a Druid symbol : — ' Neidhe ' (a young bard who aspired 
to succeed his father as chief poet of Ulster), * made his 
journey with a silver branch over him. The Anradhs, or 
poets of the second order, carried a silver branch, but the 
Ollamhs, or chief poets, carried a branch of gold ; all other 
poets bore a branch of bronze.' ^ Modern and ancient 
parallels are world-wide, among the most civilized as among 
the least civilized peoples, and in civil or religious life among 
ourselves. Thus, it was with a magic rod that Moses struck 
the rock and pure water gushed forth, and he raised the 
same rod and the Red Sea opened ; kings hold their sceptres 
no less than Neptune his trident ; popes and bishops have 
their croziers ; in the Roman Church there are little wand- 
like objects used to perform benedictions ; high civil officials 
have their mace of office ; and all the world over there are * 
the wands of magicians and of medicine-men. » 

* Cf. Hennessy's ed. in Todd Lectures, ser. I. i. 9. 

• Among the early ecclesiastical manuscripts of the so-called Prophecies. 
See E. O'Curry, Lectures, p. 383. 

' Cf. Eleanor Hull, op. cit., pp. 439-40. 


The Sick-Bed of Cuchulainn 

We turn now to the story of the Sick-Bed of Cuchulainn} 
And this is how the great hero of Ulster was fairy-struck. 
Manannan Mac Lir, tiring of his wife Fand, had deserted 
her, and so she, wishing to marry Cuchulainn, went to 
Ireland with her sister Liban. Taking the form of two birds 
bound together by a chain of red gold, Fand and Liban 
rested on a lake in Ulster where Cuchulainn should see them 
as he was hunting. To capture the two birds, Cuchulainn » 
cast a javelin at them, but they escaped, though injured. • 
Disappointed at a failure like this, which for him was most 
unusual, Cuchulainn went away to a menhir where he sat 
down and fell asleep. Then he saw two women, one in 
a green and one in a crimson cloak ; and the woman in 
green coming up to him laughed and struck him with - 
a whip-like object. The woman in crimson did likewise, and 
alternately the two women kept striking him till they left 
him almost dead. And straightway the mighty hero of the ' 
Red Branch Knights took to his bed with a strange malady, 
which no Druid or doctor in all Ireland could cure. 

Till the end of a year Cuchulainn lay on his sick-bed at ♦ 
Emain-Macha without speaking to any one. Then — the* 
day before S amain (November Eve) — there came to him 
an unknown messenger who sang to him a wonderful song, 
promising to cure him of his malady if he would only accept 
the invitation of the daughters of Aed Abrat to visit them 
in the Otherworld. When the song was ended, the messenger 
departed, * and they knew not whence he came nor whither 
he went.' Thereupon Cuchulainn went to the place where 
the malady had been put on him, and there appeared to 
him again the woman in the green cloak. She let it be 
known to Cuchulainn that she was Liban, and that she was 
longing for him to go with her to the Plain of Delight to 

* Now in three versions based on the L. U. MS. Our version is collated 
from O'Curry's translation in Atlantis^ i. 362-92, ii, 98-124, as revised 
by Kuno Meyer, Voy. of Bran, i. 152 ff. ; and from Jubainville's translation 
in L'Ep. celt, en Irl. ,pp. 170-216. 


fight against Labraid's enemies. And she promised Cuchu- 
lainn as a reward that he would get Fand to wife. But 
Cuchulainn would not accept the invitation without know- 
ing to what country he was called. So he sent his charioteer 
Laeg to bring back from there a report. Laeg went with 
the fairy woman in a boat of bronze, and returned ; and 
when Cuchulainn heard from him the wonderful glories of 
that Other world of the Sidhe he willingly set out for it. 

After Cuchulainn had overthrown Labraid's enemies and * 
had been in the Otherworld a month with the fairy woman ' 
Fand, he returned to Ireland alone ; though afterwards in* 
a place agreed upon, Fand joined him. Emer, the wife of * 
Cuchulainn, was overcome with jealousy and schemed to ' 
kill Fand, so that Fand returned to her husband the god * 
Manannan and he received her back again. When she was " 
gone Cuchulainn could not be consoled ; but Emer obtained « 
from the Druids a magic drink for Cuchulainn, which made ^ 
him forget all about the Otherworld and the fairy woman 4 
Fand. And another drink the Druids gave to Emer so that * 
she forgot all her jealousy ; and then Manannan Mac Lir ' 
himself came and shook his mantle between Cuchulainn and ' 
Fand to prevent the two ever meeting again. And thus it » 
was that the Sidhe-'wovcien failed to steal away the great 
Cuchulainn. The magic of the Druids and the power of the 
Tuatha De Danann king triumphed ; and the Champion of 
Ulster did not go to the Otherworld until he met a natural 
death in that last great fight .^ 

Ossian's Return from Fairyland 2 

Ossian too, like Cuchulainn, was enticed into Fairyland 
by a fairy woman : — She carries him away on a white 
horse, across the Western Ocean ; and as they are moving 

* As Alfred Nutt pointed out, ' There is no parallel to the position or to 
the sentiments of Fand in the post-classic literature of Western Europe 
until we come to Guinevere and Isolt, Ninian and Orgueilleuse ' (Voy. of 
Bran, i. 156 n.). 

* See poem Tir na nog (Land of Youth), by Michael Comyn, composed 
or collected about the year 1749. Ed. by Bryan O'Looney, in Trans. 
Ossianic Soc, iv. 234-70. 


over the sea-waves they behold a fair maid on a brown 
horse, and she holding in her right hand a golden apple. 
After the hero had married his fairy abductress and lived 
in the Other world for three hundred years, an overpowering 
desire to return to Ireland and join again in the councils 
of his dearly beloved Fenian Brotherhood took possession of 
him, and he set out on the same white horse on which he 
travelled thence with the fairy princess, for such was his 
wife. And she, as he went, thrice warned him not to lay » 
his * foot on level ground ', and he heard from her the ' 
startling announcement that the Fenians were all gone and 
Ireland quite changed. 

Safe in Ireland, Ossian seeks the Brotherhood, and though 
he goes from one place to another where his old companions 
were wont to meet, not one of them can he find. And how 
changed is all the land ! He realizes at last how long he 
must have been away. The words of his fairy wife are too 
sadly true. 

While Ossian wanders disconsolately over Ireland, he 
comes to a multitude of men trying to move an enormous 
slab of marble, under which some other men are lying. 
* Ossian's assistance is asked, and he generously gives it. 
But in leaning over his horse, to take up the stone with one - 
hand, the girth breaks, and he falls. Straightway the white * 
horse fled away on his way home, and Ossian became aged, -■ 
decrepit, and blind.' ^ 

The Going of Lanval to Avalon 

The fairy romances which were recorded during the 
mediaeval period in continental Europe report a surpris- 
ingly large number of heroes who, like Cuchulainn and 
Ossian, fell under the power of fairy women or fees, and . 
followed one of them to the Apple-Land or Avalon. Besides » 

* Laeghaire, who also came back from Fairyland on a fairy horse, 
and fifty warriors with him each likewise mounted, to say good-bye for 
ever to the king and people of Connaught, were warned as they set out for 
this world not to dismount if they wished to return to their fairy wives. 
The warning was strictly observed, and thus they were able to go back to 
the Sidhe -world (see p. 295). 


Arthur, they include Sir Lancelot, Sir Gawayne, Ogier, 
Guingemor and Lanval (see pp. 325-6). The story of Lanval 
is told by Marie de France in one of her Lais, and is so 
famous a one that we shall briefly outline it : — 

Lanval was a mediaeval knight who lived during the time 
of King Arthur in Brittany. He was young and very 
beautiful, so that one of the fairy damsels fell in love with 
him ; and in the true Irish fashion — himself and his fairy 
sweetheart mounted on the same fairy horse — the two went 
riding off to Fairyland : — 

On the horse behind her 
With full rush Lanval jumped. 
With her he goes away into Avalon, 
According to what the Briton tells us. 
Into an isle, which is very beautiful.^ 

The Voyage of Teigue, Son of Cian 

There is another type of imram in which through adven- 
ture rather than through invitation from one of the fairy 
beings, men enter the Otherworld ; as illustrated by the 
Voyage of Mael-Duin,^ and by the still more beautiful 
Voyage of Teigue, Son of Cian. This last old Irish story 
summarizes many of the Otherworld elements we have so 
far considered, and (though it shows Christian influences) 
gives us a very clear picture of the Land of Youth amid 
the Western Ocean — a land such as Ponce De Leon and so 
many brave navigators sought in America : — 

Teigue, son of Cian, and heir to the kingship of West 
Munster, with his followers set out from Ireland to recover 
his wife and brethren who had been stolen by Cathmann and 
his band of sea-rovers from Fresen, a land near Spain. It 
was the time of the spring tide, when the sea was rough, and 
storms coming on the voyagers they lost their way. After 
about nine weeks they came to a land fairer than any land 
they had ever beheld — it was the Happy Otherworld. In 

^ Cf . Bihliotheca Normannica, iii, Die Lais der Marie de France, pp. 86-1 12. 
* Cf. Stokes's trans., in Rev. Celt.,ix. 453-95, x. 50-95. Most of the tale 
comes fom the L. U. MS. ; cf. L'Ep. celt, en Irl., pp. 449-500. 


it were many ' red-laden apple-trees, with leafy oaks too t 
in it, and hazels yellow with nuts in their clusters ' ; and * 
' a wide smooth plain clad in flowering clover all bedewed 
with honey '. In the midst of this plain Teigue and his 
companions descried three hills, and on each of them an 
impregnable place of strength. At the first stronghold, 
which had a rampart of white marble, Teigue was welcomed ► 
by * a white-bodied lady, fairest of the whole world's women ' ; » 
and she told him that the stronghold is the abode ' of Ire- * 
land's kings : from Heremon son of Milesius to Conn of the ' 
Hundred Battles, who was the last to pass into it '. Teigue 
with his people moved on till they gained the middle dun, 
the dtm with a rampart of gold. There also * they found • 
a queen of gracious form, and she draped in vesture of ♦ 
a golden fabric ', who tells them that they are in the Earth's ' 
fourth paradise. ' 

At the third dun, the dun with a silver rampart, Teigue 
and his party met Connla, the son of Conn of the Hundred 
Battles. * In his hand he held a fragrant apple having the •^ 
hue of gold ; a third part of it he would eat, and still, for aU • 
he consumed, never a whit would it be diminished.' And » 
at his side sat a young woman of many charms, who spake ' 
thus to Teigue : — ' I had bestowed on him (i. e. felt for him) 
true affection's love, and therefore wrought to have him 
come to me in this land ; where our delight, both of us, is 
to continue in looking at and in perpetual contemplation of - 
one another : above and beyond which we pass not, to 
commit impurity or fleshly sin whatsoever.' Both Connla 
and his friend were clad in vestments of green — like the 
fairy-folk ; and their step was so light that hardly did the 
beautiful clover-heads bend beneath it. And the apple ' it 
was that supported the pair of them and, when once they - 
had partaken of it, nor age nor dimness could affect them '. " 
When Teigue asked who occupied the dun with the silver 
rampart the maiden with Connla made this reply : — * In 
that one there is not any one. For behoof of the righteous 
kings that after acceptance of the Faith shall rule Ireland 
it is that yonder dun stands ready ; and we are they who, 


until such those virtuous princes shall enter into it, keep the ^ 
same : in the which, Teigue my soul, thou too shalt have * 
an appointed place.' * Obliquely across the most capacious > 
palace Teigue looked away * (as he was observing the beauty 
of the yet uninhabited dun), ' and marked a thickly fur- 
nished wide-spreading apple-tree that bare blossoms and 
ripe fruit both. " What is that apple-tree beyond ? " he 
asked [of the maiden], and she made answer : — " That 
apple-tree's fruit it is that for meat shall serve the con- ^ 
gregation which is to be in this mansion, and a single apple - 
of the same it was that brought (coaxed away) Connla to me." ' ' 

Then the party rested, and there came towards them 
a whole array of feminine beauty, among which was a lovely 
damsel of refined form who foretold to Teigue the manner^ 
and time of his death, and as a token she gave him * a fair ^ 
cup of emerald hue, in which are inherent many virtues : ' 
for [among other things] though it were but water poured 
into it, incontinently it would be wine '. And this was her 
farewell message to Teigue : — * From that (the cup), let not 
thine hand part ; but have it for a token : when it shall 
escape from thee, then in a short time after shalt thou die ; / 
and where thou shalt meet thy death is in the glen that is 
on Boyne's side : there the earth shall grow into a great 
hill, and the name that it shall bear will be croidhe eisse ; 
there too (when thou shalt first have been wounded by 
a roving wild hart, after which Allmarachs will slay thee) 
I will bury thy body ; but thy soul shall come with me 
hither, where till the Judgement's Day thou shalt assume * 
a body light and ethereal.' '* 

As the party led by Teigue were going down to the sea- 
shore to depart, the girl who had been escorting them 
asked ' how long they had been in the country '. * In our 
estimation,' they replied, ' we are in it but one single day.' -» 
She, however, said : ' For an entire twelvemonth ye are in it ; ' 
during which time ye have had neither meat nor drink, nor, ^ 
how long soever ye should be here, would cold or thirst or » 
hunger assail you.' And when Teigue and his party had / 
entered their currach they looked astern, but * they saw 


not the land from which they came, for incontinently an 
obscuring magic veil was drawn over it '.^ ^ 

The Adventures of Art, Son of Conn 

This interesting imram combines, in a way, the type of 
tale wherein a fairy woman comes from the Otherworld to *- 
our world — though in this tale she is banished from there — m 
and the type of tale wherein the Otherworld is found through 
adventure : — 

Becuma Cneisgel, a woman of the Tuatha De Danann, 
because of a transgression she had committed in the Other- 
world with Gaidiar, Manannan's son, was banished thence. 
She came to Conn, high king of Ireland, and she bound him 
to do her will ; and her judgement was that Art, the son of 
Conn, should not come to Tara until a year was past. During 
the year. Conn and Becuma were together in Tara, * and . 
there was neither corn nor milk in Ireland during that „- 
time.' The Tuatha De Danann sent this dreadful famine ; • 
for they, as agricultural gods, thus showed their displeasure • 
at the unholy life of Ireland's high king with the evil woman * 
whom they had banished. The Druids of all Ireland being 
called together, declared that to appease the Tuatha De 
Danann ' the son of a sinless couple should be brought to "• 
Ireland and slain before Tara, and his blood mingled with '. 
the soil of Tara ' (cf. p. 436). It was Conn himself who set • 
out for the Otherworld and found there the sinless boy, the 
son of the queen of that world, and he brought him back 
to Tara. A strange event saves the youth : — * Just then 
they (the assembly of people and Druids, with Conn, Art, 
and Finn) heard the lowing of a cow, and a woman wailing 
continually behind it. And they saw the cow and the 
woman making for the assembly.' The woman had come , 
from the Otherworld to save Segda ; and the cow was accepted . 
as a sacrifice in place of Segda, owing to the wonders it dis- ' 
closed ; for its two bags when opened contained two birds > 
— one with one leg and one with twelve legs, and ' the one- » 

^ Silva Gadeltca, ii. 385-401. The MS. text, Echtra Thaidg mheic ChHn, 
or ' The Adventure of Clan's son Teigue ', is found in the Book of Lismore. 


legged bird prevailed over the bird with twelve legs '. Then 
rising up and calling Conn aside, the woman declared to 
him that until he put aside the evil woman Becuma ' a 
third of its corn, and its milk, and its mast ' should be lack- 
ing to Ireland. * And she took leave of them then and went 
off with her son, even Segda. And jewels and treasures / 
were offered to them, but they refused them.' ^ 

In the second part of this complex tale, Becuma and Art 
are together playing a game. Art finally loses, because * the 
men of the sidh (like invisible spirits) began to steal the 
pieces ' with which he and the woman play ; and, as a result, 
Becuma put on him this taboo : — ' Thou shalt not eat food v 
in Ireland until thou bring with thee Delbchaem, the daughter 
of Morgan.' ' Where is she? ' asked Art. ' In an isle amid 
the sea, and that is all the information that thou wilt get.' 
* And he put forth the coracle, and travelled the sea from 
one isle to another until he came to a fair, strange island,' the 
Otherworld. The blooming women of that land entertain the 
prince of Ireland during six weeks, and instruct him in all 
the dangers he must face and the conquests he must make. * 

Having successfully met all the ordeals, Art secures * 
Delbchaem, daughter of Morgan the king of the * Land of ' 
Wonders ', and returns to Ireland. ' She had a green cloak ■" 
of one hue about her, with a gold pin in it over her breast, * 
and long, fair, very golden hair. She had dark-black eye- * 
brows, and flashing grey eyes in her head, and a snowy- 
white body.' And upon seeing the chaste and noble Delb- 
chaem with Art, Becuma, the banished woman of the Tuatha 
De Danann, lamenting, departs from Tara for ever.^ 

Otherwori:.d Quests of Cuchulainn and of Arthur 

There is yet the distinct class of tales about journeys to 
a fairy world which is a Hades world beneath the earth, t 
or in some land of death, rather than amid the waves of the » 
Western Ocean. Thus there is a curious poem in the Book '^ 

^ Summarized and quoted from translation by R. I. Best, in Eviu, iii. 
1 50-73- The text is found in the Book of Fermoy (pp. 1 39-45 ), a fifteenth- 
century codex in the Royal Irish Academy. 


of the Dun Cow describing an expedition led by Cuchulainn 
to the stronghold of Scath in the land of Scath, or, as the * 
name means, land of Shades, where the hero gains the ' 
king's cauldron.^ And the poem suggests why so few who * 
invaded that Hades world ever returned — perhaps why, * 
mystically speaking, so few men could escape either through / 
initiation or re-birth the natural confusion and forgetful- t 
ness arising out of death. a 

In the Book of Taliessin a weird poem, Preiddeu Annwfn, 
or the * Spoils of Annwn ', describes, in language not always 
clear, how the Brythonic Arthur made a similar journey to -* 
the Welsh Hades world named Annwn, where he, like Cuchu- » 
lainn in Scath, gained possession of a magic cauldron — > 
a pagan Celtic type of the Holy Grail — which furnishes ' 
inexhaustible food though ' it will not boil the food of > 
a coward '. But in stanzas iii and iv of Preiddeu Annwfn, 
Annwn, or Uffern as it is otherwise called, is not an under- 
ground realm, but some world to be reached like the Gaelic # 
Land of Promise by sea. Annwn is also called Caer Sidi, * 
which in another poem of the Book of Taliessin (No. XIV) is 
thought of as an island of immortal youth amid * the streams 
of the ocean ' where there is a food-giving fountain. ^ * 

Literary Evolution of the Happy Otherworld Idea 

We have now noticed two chief classes of Otherworld 
legends. In one there is the beautiful and peaceful Tir In- 
namheo or * Land of the Living' under Manannan's rule across , 
the seas, and its fairy inhabitants are principally women who ^ 
lure away noble men and youths through love for them ; / 
in the other there is a Hades world — often confused with the » 
former — in which great heroes go on some mysterious^ 
quest. Sometimes this Hades world is inseparable from the ' 
underground palaces or world of the Tuatha De Danann. » 
Again, it may be an underlake fairy-realm like that entered , 
by Laeghaire and his fifty companions (see p. 302) ; or, as in t 

* Folios 1 13-15, trans. O'Beirne Crow, Journ. Kilkenny Archae. Soc. 
( 1 870-1), pp. 371-448 ; cf. Rhys, Hib. Led., pp. 260-1. 

* Cf. Skene, Four Ancient Books of Wales, i. 264-6, 276, &c. 
^ WENTZ A a 


Gilla Decair} of late composition, it is an under-well land » 
wherein Dermot has adventures. And, in a similar tale, 
Murough, on the invitation of a mysterious stranger who 
comes out of a lake and then disappears * like the mist of 
a winter fog or the whiff of a March wind ', dives beneath 
the lake's waters, and is escorted to the palace of King - 
Under- Wave, wherein he sees the stranger as the water- • 
king himself sitting on a golden throne (cf . pp. 63-4) . In con- ' 
tinual feasting there Murough passes a day and a year, * 
thinking the time only a few days.^ / 

As a rule the Hades world, or underground and under- 
wave world, is unlike Manannan's peaceful ocean realm, 
being often described as a place of much strife ; and mortals / 
are usually induced to enter it to aid in settling the troubles r^ 
of its fairy inhabitants. ' 

All the numerous variations of Other world tale s now 
extant in Celtic literature show a comm on pre-Chr istian 
origin, though almost all of them have been coloured by ^ 
Christian ideas about heaven, hell, and purgatory^ From ' 
the earliest tales of the over-sea Otherworld type, like those 
of Bran, Maelduin, and Connla, all of which may go back to 
the early eighth century as compositions, the christianizing 
influence is already clearly begun ; and in the Voyage 
of Snedgus and of Mac Riagla, of the late ninth century, 
this influence predominates.^ Purel y Christian texts of # 
about the same period or later describe the Christian Jieaven - 
as though it were the pagan OtherworlcL Some of these, / 
like the Latin version of the tale of St. Brandan's Voyage, 
greatly influenced European literature, and probably con- * 
tributed to the discovery of the New World.^ * 

The combination of Christian and pagan Celtic ideas is 
well shown in the Voyage of the Hut Corra * : — * Thereafter 

* Cf. Silva Gadelica, ii. 301 ff., from Additional MS. 341 19, dating from 
1765, in British Museum. 

' Giolla an Fhiugha, or * The Lad of the Ferrule ', trans, by Douglas 
Hyde, in Irish Texts Society, London, 1899. 

' Cf. Meyer and Nutt, Voy. of Bran, i. 147, 228, 230, 235 ; 161. 

• The bulk of the text comes from the Book of Fermoy. Cf. Stokes's 
trans, in Rev. Celt., xiv. 59, 49, 53, &c. 


a wondrous island was shown to them. A psalm-singing 
venerable old man, with fair, builded churches and beautiful 
bright altars. Beautiful green grass therein. A dew of 
honey on its grass. Little ever-lovely bees and fair, purple- 
headed birds a-chanting music therein, so that [merely] to 
listen to them was enough of delight.' But in another 
passage the Christian scribe describes Otherworld birds as / 
souls, some of them in-hell : — * " Of the land of Erin am I," ? 
quoth the bird, " and I am the soul of a woman, and I am * 
a monkess unto thee," she saith to the elder. ..." Come ye 
to another place," saith the bird, " to hearken to yon birds. 
The birds that ye see are the souls that come on Sunday out • 
of hell." ' Still other islands are definitely made into - 
Christian hells full of fire, wherein wailing and shrieking- 
men are being mangled by the beaks and talons of birds. * 

But sometimes, like the legends about the Tuatha De 
Danann, the legends about the Otherworld were taken 
literally and most seriously by some early Irish-Christian 
saints. Professor J. Loth records a very interesting episode, 
how St. Malo and his teacher Brandan actually set out on 
an ocean voyage to find the Heaven-world of the pagan 
Celts : — * Saint Malo, when a youth, embarks with his 
teacher Brandan in a boat, in search of that mysterious 
country ; after some days, the waves drive him back 
rebuffed and discouraged upon the seashore. An angel 
opens his eyes : the land of eternal peace and of eternal 
youth is that which Christianity promises to its elect.' ^ 

Not only was the Celtic Otherworld gradually changed 
into a Christian Heaven, or Hell, from the eighth century 
onward, but its divine inhabitants soon came to suffer the 
rationalization commonly applied to their race ; and the 
transcribers began to set them down as actual personages of 
Irish history. As we have already observed, the Tuatha De 
Danann were shorn of their immortality, and were given in 
exchange all the passions and shortcomings of men, and 
made subject to disease and death. This perhaps was a 

* J. Loth, L' Emigration bretonne en Armorique (Paris, 1883), pp. 



natural anthropomorphic process such as is met with in all 
mythologies. Celtic myth and mysticism, wherein may yet , 
be read the deepest secrets of life and death, supplied names ^ 
and legends to fill out a christianized scheme of Irish chrono- * 
logy, which was made to begin some six thousand years ago 
with Adam. 

A few of the pagan legends, however, met very fair 
treatment at the hands of poetical and patriotic Christian 
transcribers. Thus in Adamnan's Vision} though the Celtic 
Otherworld has become * the Land of the Saints ', its primal 
character is clearly discernible : to reach it a sea voyage is 
necessary ; and it is a land where there is no pride, false- 
hood, envy, disease or death, * wherein is delight of every 
goodness.' In it there are singing birds, and for sustenance 
while there the voyagers need only to hear its music and 
' sate themselves with the odour which is in the Land *. 

Again, in the Book of Leinster, and in later MSS., there is 
a dinnshenchas of almost primal pagan purity. It alludes to 
Clidna's Wave, that of Tuag Inbir : — To Tuag, daughter of 
Conall, Manannan the sea-god sent a messenger, a Druid of 
the Tuatha De Danann in the shape of a woman. The 
Druid chanted a sleep spell over the girl, and while he left 
her on the seashore to look for a boat in which to embark 
for the * Land of Everliving Women ', a wave of the flood 
tide came and drowned her. But the Oxford version of the 
same tale doubts whether the maiden was drowned, for it 
suggests, * Or maybe it (the wave) was Manannan himself 
that was carrying her off.' ^ Thus the scribe understood 
that to go to Manannan's world literally meant entering 
a sleep or trance state, or, what is equivalent in the case of ^ 
the maiden whom Manannan summoned, the passage through-*' 
death from the physical body. And still, to-day, the Irish ' 
peasant believes that the * good people ' take to their invisible * 
world all young men or maidens who meet death ; or that / 

* Ed. and trans, by W. Stokes, Calcutta, 1866. This Vision has been 
erroneously ascribed to the celebrated Abbot of lona, who died in 703 ; 
but Professor Zimmer has regarded it as a ninth-century composition • 
of. Voy. of Bran, i. 219 ff. * Cf. Voy. of Bran, i. 195 if. 


one under a fairy spell may go to their world for a short 
time, and come back to our world again. 

We have frequently emphasized how truly the modern 
Celtic peasant in certain non-commercialized localities has 
kept to the faith of his pagan ancestors, while the learned 
Christian scribes have often departed widely from it. The 
story of the voyage of Fionn to the Otherworld,^ which Camp- 
bell found living among Scotch peasants as late as the last 
century, adds a striking proof of this assertion. So does 
Michael Comyn's peasant version of Ossian in the * Land of 
Youth ' (as outlined above, p. 346), which, though dating from 
about 1749, has all the natural character of the best ancient 
tales, like those about Bran and Cormac. We are inclined, 
therefore, to attach a value even higher than we have already , 
done to the testimony of the living Fairy-Faith which con- • 
firms in so many parallel ways, as has been shown, the Fairy- • 
Faith of the remote past. Mr. W. B. Yeats, the Irish poet, ' 
adequately sums up this matter by saying, * But the Irish 
peasant believes that the utmost he can dream was once . 
or still is a reality by his own door. He will point to some . 
mountain and tell you that some famous hero or beauty 
lived and sorrowed there, or he will tell you that Tir-na-nog, 
the Country of the Young, the old Celtic paradise — the 
Land of the Living Heart, as it used to be called — is all 
about him.* ^ 

At the end of his long and careful study of the Celtic 
Otherworld, Alfred Nutt arrived at the tentative conclusion 
which coincides with our own, that * The vision of a Happy ' 
Otherworld found in Irish mythic romances of the eighth 
and following centuries is substantially pre-Christian *, that *^\ 
its closest analogues are in Hellenic myth, and that with# 
these ' it forms the most archaic Aryan presentation of lhe» 
divine and happy land we possess '.^ r 

* See J. G. Campbell, The Fians, pp. 260-7. 

* The Literary Movement in Ireland, in Ideals in Ireland, ed. by Lady 
Gregory (London, 1901), p. 95. 

' Cf. Voy. of Bran, i. 331. 



* It seems as if Ossian's was a premature return. To-day he might find 
comrades come back from Tir-na-nog for the upUfting of their race. 
Perhaps to many a young spirit standing up among us Cailte might speak 
as to Mongan, saying : "I was with thee, with Finn." ' — A. E. 

Re-birth and Otherworld — As a Christian doctrine — General historical 
survey — According to the Barddas MSS. ; according to ancient and 
modern authorities — Reincarnation of the Tuatha De Danann — King 
Mongan's re-birth — Etain's birth — Dermot's pre-existence — Tuan's 
re-birth — Re-birth among Brythons — Arthur as a reincarnate hero — 
Non-Celtic parallels — Re-birth among modern Celts : in Ireland ; in 
Scotland ; in the Isle of Man ; in Wales ; in Cornwall ; in Brittany 
— Origin and evolution of Celtic Re-birth Doctrine. 

Relation with the Otherworld 

However much the conception of the Otherworld among ., 
the ancient Greeks may have differed from that among the 
Celts, it wa^^ to both peoples alike inseparably ^connected ' 
with their belief in re-birth. Alfred Nutt, who studied ' 
this intimate relation more carefully perhaps than any 
other Celtic folk-lorist, has said of it : — * In Greek mytho- 
logy as in Irish, the conception of re-birth proves to be / 
a dominant factor of the same religious system in which > 
Elysium is likewise an essential feature.' Death, as many, • 
initiates have proclaimed in their mystical writings, is but -^ 
a go ing to that Otherwo rldJrom this worlds and Bj rth a 

* General reference : Essay upon the Irish Vision of the happy Other- 
world and the Celtic Doctrine of Re-birth, by Alfred Nutt in Kuno Meyer's 
Voyage of Bran. Chief sources : Leabhar na h-Uidhre ; Book of Leinster ; 
Four Ancient Books of Wales; Mabinogion ; Silva Gadelica : Barddas , 
a collection of Welsh manuscripts made about 1560; and the Annals of the 
Four Masters, compiled in the first half of the seventeenth century. 


coming back again ; ^ and Buddha announced it as his* 
mission to teach men the way to be delivered out of this 
eternal Circle of Existence. 

Historical Survey of the Re-Birth Doctrine 
Among ourselves the doctrine may seem a strange one, 
though among the great nations of antiquity — the Egyptians, 
Indians, Greeks, and Celts — it was taught in the Mysteries 
and Priest-Schools, and formed the comer-stone of the 
most important philosophical systems like those of Buddha, 
Pythagoras, Plato, the Neo-Platonists, and the Druids. 
The Alexandrian Jews, also, were familiar with the doctrine, 
as implied in the Wisdom of Solomon (viii. 19, 20), and in the 
writings of Philo. It was one of the teachings in the Schools 
of Alexandria, and thus directly shaped the thoughts of 
some of the early Church Fathers — for example, Tertullian 
of Carthage (circa A. d. 160-240), and Origen of Alexandria 
(circa A. D. 185-254). It is of considerable historical im- 
portance for us at this point to consider at some length if 
Christians in the first centuries held or were greatly influenced 
by the re-birth doctrine, because, as we shall presently ob- 
serve, the probable influence of Christian on pagan Celtic 
beliefs may have been at a certain period very deep and 
even the most important reshaping influence. 

As an examination of Origen's De Principiis proves, 
Origen himself believed in the doctrine.^ But the theo- 
logians who created the Greek canons of the Fifth Council 

* Cf. Plato, Republic, x ; Phaedo ; Phaedrus, Sec. ; lamblichus, Concerning 
the Mysteries of Egypt, Chaldaea, Assyria ; Plutarch, Mysteries of I sis 
{De Iside et Osiride). 

' He says : — ' I, for my part, suspect that the spirit was implanted in 
them (rational creatures, men) from without ' {De Principiis, Book I, c. vii. 
4) ; ... * the cause of each one's actions is a pre-existing one ; and then 
every one, according to his deserts, is made by God either a vessel unto 
honour or dishonour ' (ib., Book HI, c. i. 20). ' Whence we are of opinion that, 
seeing the soul, as we have frequently said, is immortal and eternal, it is 
possible that, in the many and endless periods of duration in the immeasur- 
able and different worlds, it may descend from the highest good to the 
lowest evil, or be restored from the lowest evil to the highest good ' (ib., 
Book HI, c, i, 2 1 ) ; . . . * every one has the reason in himself, why he has been 
placed in this or that rank in life ' (ib., Book HI, c. v, 4). 


disagreed with Origen's views, and condemned Origen for , 
believing, among other things called by them heresies, * 
that Jesus Christ will be reincarnated and suffer on earth - 
a second time to save the daemons,^ an order of spiri-*' 
tual beings regarded by some ancient philosophers as/ 
destined to evolve into human souls. TertuUian, contem- ^ 
porary with Origen, in his De Anima considers whether ., 
or not the doctrine of re-birth can be regarded as Chris- 
tian in view of the declaration by Jesus Christ that 
John the Baptist was Elias (or Elijah), the old Jewish* 
prophet, come again : — ' And if ye are willing to receive 
it (or him), this (John the Baptist) is Elijah, which is 
to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.' ^ TertuUian 
concludes, and modern Christian theologians frequently echo 
him (upon comparing Malachi iv. 5), that all the New 
Testament writers mean to convey is that John the Baptist 
possessed or acted in ' the spirit and power ' of Elias, but 
was not actually a reincarnation of Elias, since he did not 
possess * the soul and body ' of Elias. ^ Had TertuUian been 
a mystic and not merely a theologian with a personal bias 
against the mystery teachings, which bias he shows through- 
out his Be Anima, it is quite evident that he would have 
been on this doctrinal matter in agreement with Origen, 
who was both a mystic and a theologian,* and, then, prob- 
ably with such an agreement of these two eminent Church 
Fathers on record before the time when Christian councils 

* Cf. Bergier, Origene, in Diet, de Theologie, v. 69. 

2 Holy Bible, Revised Version, St. Matt. xi. 14-15 ; cf. St. Matt, xvii^ 
10-13, St. Mark ix. 13, St. Luke vii. 27, St. John i. 21. 

' Tertullian's conclusion is as follows : — * These substances (" soul and 
body ") are, in fact, the natural property of each individual ; whilst " the 
spirit and power " (cf. Mai. iv. 5) are bestowed as external gifts by the 
grace of God, and so may be transferred to another person according to 
the purpose and will of the Almighty, as was anciently the case with 
respect to the spirit of Moses' (cf. Num. xii. 2). — De Anima c. xxxv ; 
cf. trans, in Ante-Nicene Christian Library (Edinburgh, 1870), xv. 496-7. 

* Origen says : — ' But that there should be certain doctrines not made 
known to the multitude, which are [revealed] after the exoteric ones have 
been taught, is not a peculiarity of Christianity alone, but also of philo- 
sophic systems, in which certain truths are exoteric and others esoteric ' 
{Origen against Celsus, Book I, c. vii). 


met to determine canonical and orthodox beliefs, the doc- 
trine of re-birth would never have been expurgated from 

In the Pistis Sophia,^ an ancient Gnostic-Christian work, 
which contains what are alleged to be some of Jesus Christ's 
esoteric teachings to his disciples, it is clearly stated (contrary 
to Tertullian's argument, but in accord with what we may 
assume Origen's view would have been) that John the 
Baptist was the reincarnation of Elias.^ The same work 

* How Tertullian almost literally accepted the re-birth doctrine is shown 
in his Apology, chapter xlviii, concerning the resurrection of the body. It 
is the corrupted form of the doctrine, viz. transmigration of human souls 
into animal bodies, which he therein, as well as in his De Anima and else- 
where, chiefly and logically combats, as Origen also combated it. He first 
shows why a human soul must return into a human body in accordance 
with natural analogy, every creature being after its own kind always ; 
and then, because the purpose of the Resurrection is the judgement, that 
the soul "must return into its own body. And he concludes : — ' It is surely 
more worthy of belief that a man will be restored from a man, any given 
person from any given person, but still a man ; so that the same kind of 
soul may be reinstated in the same mode of existence, even if not into the 
same outward form ' (The Apology of Tertullian fof the Christians \ cf. trans, 
by T. H. Bindley, Oxford, 1890, pp. 137-9)- 

* British Museum MS. Add. 5 114, vellum — a Coptic manuscript in the 
dialect of Upper Egypt. Its undetermined date is placed by Woide at latest 
about the end of the fourth century. It was evidently copied by one scribe 
from an older manuscript, the original probably having been the Apocalypse 
of Sophia, by Valentius, the learned Gnostic who lived in Egypt for thirty 
years during the second century. See the translation of the Schwartze's 
parallel Latin version of Pistis Sophia and its introduction, both by G. R. S. 
Mead (London, 1896). 

' The chief passages are as follows, Jesus being the speaker : — ' More- 
over, in the region of the soul of the rulers, destined to receive it, I found 
the soul of the prophet Elias, in the aeons of the sphere, and I took him, 
and receiving his soul also, I brought it to the virgin of light, and she gave 
it to her receivers ; they brought it to the sphere of the rulers, and cast it 
into the womb of Elizabeth. Wherefore the power of the little lao, who 
is in the midst, and the soul of Elias the prophet, are united with the body 
of John the Baptist. For this cause have ye been in doubt aforetime* 
when I said unto you, " John said, I am not the Christ " ; and ye said 
unto me, " It is written in the Scripture, that when the Christ shall come, 
Elias will come before him, and prepare his way." And I, when ye had 
said this unto me, replied unto you, " Elias verily is come, and hath pre- 
pared all things, according as it is written ; and they have done unto him 
whatsoever they would." And when I perceived that ye did not under- 
stand that I had spoken concerning the soul of Elias united with John the 
Baptist, I answered you openly and face to face with the words, "If ye 


further expounds the doctrine of re-birth as a teaching of • 
Jesus Christ which appHes not to particular personages only, ' 
like Elias, but as a universal law governing the lives of all 

As our discussion has made evident, during the first 
centuries the re-birth doctrine was undoubtedly well known 
to Alexandrian Christians. Among other early Christian # 
theologians and philosophers who held some form of a re- 
birth doctrine, were Synesius, Bishop of Ptolemais (circa 
375-414), Boethius, a Roman (circa 475-525), and Psellus, a 
native of Andros (second half of ninth century). In addition 
to the many Gnostic-Christian sects, the Manichaeans, • 
who comprised more than seventy sects connected with 
the primitive Church, also promulgated the re-birth doc- 
trine. ^ Along with the condemnation of the Gnostics and * 
Manichaeans as heretical, the doctrine of re-birth was like- • 
wise condemned by various ecclesiastical bodies and councils. ^ 
This was the declaration by the Council of Constantinople 
in 553 • — * Whosoever shall support the mythical doctrine 
of the pre-existence of the Soul, and the consequent wonder- 
ful opinion of its return, let him be anathema.' And so, 
after centuries of controversy, the ancient doctrine ceased ' 
to be regarded as Christian.^ It is very likely, how- / 

will receive it, John the Baptist is Elias who, I said, was for to come " ' 
{Pistis Sophia, Book I, 12-13, Mead's translation). 

* * The Saviour answered and said unto his disciples : — " Preach ye 
unto the whole world, saying unto men, ' Strive together that ye may 
receive the mysteries of light in this time of stress, and enter into the 
kingdom of light. Put not off from day to day, and from cycle to cycle, 
in the belief that ye will succeed in obtaining the mysteries when ye return 
to the world in another cycle ' " ' {Pistis Sophia, Book II, 317, Mead's 

* Cf. Bergier, Manich/ismey in Diet, de Th/ol., iv. 211-13. 

* The Refutation of Irenaeus, until quite recently, has been the chief 
source of much of our knowledge concerning Gnosticism. It was written 
during the second century at Lyons, by Irenaeus, a bishop of Gaul, far 
from any direct contact with the still flourishing Gnosticism. But now 
with the discovery of genuine manuscripts of Gnostic works : (i) the 
Askew Codex y vellum, British Museum, London, containing the Pistis 
Sophia (see above, p. 361 n.) and extracts from the Books of the Saviour; 
(2) the Bruce Codex (two MSS.), papyrus, Bodleian Library, Oxford, con- 
taining the fragmentary Book of the Great Logos, an unknown treatise, and 


ever, as will be shown in due order, that a few of the early 
Celtic missionaries, always famous for their Celtic inde- > 
pendence even in questions touching Christian theology and * 
government, did not feel themselves bound by the decisions • 
of continental Church Councils with respect to this particular 

During the mediaeval period in Europe, the re-birth* 
doctrine continued to live on in secret among many of the » 
alchemists and mystical philosophers, and among such ' 

fragments ; and (3) the Akhnilm Codex (discovered in 1896), papyrus, 
Egyptian Museum, Berlin, containing The Gospel of Mary (or Apocryphon 
of John), The Wisdom of Jesus Christ, and The Acts of Peter, we are able 
to check from original sources the Fathers in many of their writings and 
canons concerning Gnostic ' heresies ' ; and find that Irenaeus, the last 
refuge of Christian haeresiologists, has so condensed and paraphrased his 
sources that we cannot depend upon him at all for a consistent exposition 
of Gnostic doctrines, which with more or less prejudice he is trying to 
refute. It is true that the age of these manuscripts has not been satis- 
factorily determined ; in fact most of them have not yet been carefully 
studied. Very probably, however, as appears to be the case with the 
Pistis Sophia, they have been copied from manuscripts which were con- 
temporary with or earlier than the time of Irenaeus, and hence may be 
regarded as good authority in determining Gnostic teachings. (Cf. all of 
above note with G. R. S. Mead, Fragments of a Faith Forgotten^ London, 
1900, pp. 147, 151-3.) 

Many unprejudiced scholars are now unwilling to admit the rulings of 
the Church Councils which determined what was orthodox and what 
heretical doctrines among the Gnostic-Christians, because many of their 
dogmatic decisions were based upon the unscholarly Refutation of Irenaeus 
and upon other equally unreliable evidence. The data which have 
accumulated in the hands of scholars about early Christian thought and 
Gnosticism are now much more complete and trustworthy than the similar 
data were upon which the Council of Constantinople in 553 based its 
decision with respect to the doctrine of re-birth ; and the truth coming to be 
recognized seems to be that the Gnostics rather than the Church Fathers, 
who adopted from them what doctrines they liked, condemning those 
they did not like, should henceforth be regarded as the first Christian 
theologians, and mystics. If this view of the very difficult and complex 
matter be accepted, then modem Christianity itself ought to be allowed to 
resume what thus appears to have been its original position — so long 
obscured by the well-meaning, but, nevertheless, ill-advised ecclesiastical 
councils — as the synthesizer of pagan religions and philosophies. Some 
such view has been accepted by many eminent Christian theologians since 
Origen : i. e. the Cambridge Platonist, Henry More, openly advocated the 
re-birth doctrine in the seventeenth century ; and in later times it has been 
preached from Christian pulpits by such men as Henry Ward Beecher and 
Phillips Brooks. 


Druids as survived religious persecution ; and it has come 
down from that period to this through Orders like the 
Rosicrucian Order — an Order which seems to have had an , 
unbroken existence from the Middle Ages or earlier — 
and likewise through the unbroken traditions of modern 
Druidism. In our own times there is what may be called a 
renaissance of the ancient doctrine in Europe and America 
— especially in England, Germany, France, and the United 
States — through various philosophical or religious societies ; 
some of them founding their teachings and literature on 
the ancient and mediaeval mystical philosophers, while 
others stand as the representatives in the West of the 
mystical schools of modern India, which, like modern^ 
Druidism, claim to have existed from what we call pre- ^ 
historic times.^ To-day in the Roman Church eminent 
theologians have called the doctrine of Purgatory the Chris- « 
tian counterpart of the philosophical doctrine of re-birth ; ^ 
and the real significance of this opinion will appear in our • 
later study of St. Patrick's Purgatory which, as we hold, is- 
connected more or less definitely with the pagan-Irish 
doctrines of the underworld of the Sidhe-iolk and spirits, as 

^ See A. Bertrand, La Religion des Gaulois, les Druides et le Druidisme 
(Paris, 1897) I H. Jennings, The Rosicrucians (London, 1887) ; the Work 
of Paracelsus ; H. Cornelius Agrippa, De Occulta Philosophia (Paris, 1 567) ; 
H. P. Blavatsky's Isis Unveiled, and the Secret Doctrine (London, 1888); 
and Hermetic Works, by Anna Kingsford and E. Maitland (London, 1885). 

* Cf. Bergier, Purgatoire, in Diet, de Theol., v. 409. A Celt, a professed 
faithful and fervent adherent of the Church of Rome, whom I met in 
the Morbihan where he now lives, told me that he believes thoroughly in the 
doctrine of re-birth, and that it is according to his opinion the proper and 
logical interpretation of the doctrine of Purgatory ; and he added that 
there are priests in his Church who have told him that their personal 
interpretation of the purgatorial doctrine is the same. Thus some Roman 
Catholics do not deny the re-birth doctrine. And such conversations as 
this with Catholic Celts in Ireland and Brittany lead me to believe that 
to a larger extent than has been suspected the old Celtic Doctrine of Re- 
birth may have been one of the chief foundations for the modern Roman 
Catholic Doctrine of Purgatory, whose origin is not clearly indicated in 
any theological works. For us this probability is important as well as 
interesting, and especially so when we remember the profound influence 
which the Celtic St. Patrick's Purgatory certainly exerted on the Church 
during the Middle Ages when the doctrine of Purgatory was taking definite 
shape (see our chapter x). 


well as shades of the dead, and with the Celtic-Druidic 
Doctrine of Reincarnation. 

Scientifically speaking, as shown in the Welsh Triads of 
Bardism, the ancient Celtic Doctrine of Re-birth represented 
for the priestly and bardic initiates an exposition of the 
complete cycle of human evolution ; that is to say, it in- 
cluded what we now call Darwinism — which explains only 
the purely physical evolution of the body which man inhabits 
as an inheritance from the brute kingdom — and also besides 
Darwinism, a comprehensive theory of man's own evolution 
as a spiritual being both apart from and in a physical body, 
on his road to the perfection which comes from knowing 
completely the earth-plane of existence. And in time, judg- 
ing from the rapid advance of the present age, our own 
science through psychical research may work back to the old 
mystery teachings and declare them scientific. (See chap, xii.) 

According to the Barddas MSS. 

With this preliminary survey of the subject we may now 
V proceed to show how in the Celtic scheme of evolution the 
' Otherworld with all its gods, fairies, and invisible beings, 
and this world with all its visible beings, form the two poles 
of life or conscious existence. Let us begin with purely 
philosophical conceptions, going first to the Welsh Barddas} 
where it is said ' There are three circles of existence : the 
circle of Ceugant (the circle of Infinity), where there is 
neither animate nor inanimate save God, and God only can 
traverse it ; the circle of Abred (the circle of Re-birth), 
where the dead is stronger than the living, and where every 

* Barddas (Llandovery, 1862) is * a collection (by lolo Morganwg, 
a Bard) of original documents, illustrative of the theology, wisdom, and 
usage of the Bardo-Druidic System of the Isle of Britain '. The original 
manuscripts are said to have been in the possession of Llywelyn Sion, 
a Bard of Glamorgan, about 1 560. Barddas shows considerable Christian 
influence, yet in its essential teachings is sufficiently distinct. Though of 
late composition, Barddas seems to represent the traditional bardic doc- 
trines as they had been handed down orally for an unknown period of 
time, it having been forbidden in earlier times to commit such doctrines 
to writing. We are well aware also of the adverse criticisms passed upon 
these documents ; but since no one questions their Celtic origin — whether 
it be ancient or more modern — we are content to use them. 


principal existence is derived from the dead, and man has 
traversed it ; and the circle of Gwynvyd (the circle of the 
white, i.e. the circle of Perfection), where the living is 
stronger than the dead, and where every principal existence 
is derived from the living and life, that is, from God, and 
man shall traverse it ; nor will man attain to perfect know- 
ledge, until he shall have fully traversed the circle of Gwyn- 
vyd, for no absolute knowledge can be obtained but by the 
experience of the senses, from having borne and suffered 
every condition and incident '}...* The three stabilities of 
knowledge : to have traversed every state of life ; to re- 
member every state and its incidents ; and to be able to 
traverse every state, as one would wish, for the sake of 
experience and judgement ; and this will be obtained in the 
circle of Gwynvyd.' ^ 

Thus Barddas expounds the complete Bardic scheme of ' 
evolution as one in which the monad or soul, as a know- 
ledge of physical existence is gradually unfolded to it, passes 
through every phase of material embodiment before it enters 
the human kingdom, where, for the first time exercising 
freewill in a physical body, it becomes responsible for all its 
acts. The Bardic doctrine as otherwise stated is ' that the 
soul commenced its course in the lowest water-animalcule, 
and passed at death to other bodies of a superior order, 
successively, and in regular gradation, until it entered that 
of man. Humanity is a state of liberty, where man can 
attach himself to either good or evil, as he pleases '.^ Once 
in the human kingdom the soul begins a second period of 
growth altogether different from that preceding — a period 
of growth toward divinity ; and with this, in our study, we 
are chiefly concerned. It seems clear that the circle of 
Gwynvyd finds its parallel in the Nirvana of Buddhism, 
being, like it, a state of absolute knowledge and felicity in ' 
which man becomes a divine being, a veritable god.^ We * 

* Barddas, i, 189-91. « Barddas, i, 177. 
' Preface to Barddas, xlii. 

* One of the greatest errors formerly made by European Sanskrit scholars 
and published broadcast throughout the West, so that now it is popularly 
accepted there as true, is that Nirvana, the goal of Indian philosophy and 


see in all this the intimate relation which there was thought 
to be between what we call the state of life and the state of 
death, between the world of men and the world of gods, 
fairies, demons, spirits, and shades. Our next step m.ust 
be to show, first, what some other authorities have had 
to say about this relation, and then, second, and funda- 
mentally, that gods or fairy-folk like the Sidhe or Tuatha De 
Danann could come to this world not only as we have been 
seeing them come as fairy women, fairy men, and gods, at 
will visible or invisible to mortals, but also through sub- 
mitting to human birth. 

According to Ancient and Modern Authorities 

First, therefore, for opinions ; and we may go to the 
ancients and then to the moderns. Here are a few from 
Julius Caesar : — ' In particular they (the Druids) wish to 
inculcate this idea, that souls do not die, but pass from one 
body to another.' ' * The Gauls declare that they have all 
sprung from their father Dis (or Pluto), and this they say 
was delivered to them by the Druids.' ^ And the testimony 
of Caesar is confirmed by Diodorus Siculus,^ and by Pom- 
ponius Mela.^ Lucan, in the Pharsalia,^ addressing the 
Druids on their doctrine of re-birth says : — * If you know 
what you sing, death is the centre of a long life.' And again 
in the same passage he observes : — * Happy the folk upon 

religion, means annihilation. It does mean annihilation (evolutionary 
transmutation of lower into higher), but only of all those forces or elements 
which constitute man as an animal. The error arose from interpreting 
exoterically instead of esoterically, and was a natural result of that system 
of western scholarship which sees and often cares only to examine external 
aspects. Native Indian scholars who have advised us in this difficult 
problem prefer to translate Nirvana as ' Self-realization ', i. e. a state of 
supernormal consciousness (to be acquired through the evolution of the 
individual), as much superior to the normal human consciousness as the 
normal human consciousness is superior to the consciousness existing in 
the brute kingdom. 

* De Bel. Gal., lib. vi. 14. 5 ; vi. 18. i. * Book V, 31. 4. 

• De Situ Orbis, iii. c. 2 : ' One point alone of the Druids' teaching has 
become generally known among the common people (in order that they 
should be braver in war), that souls are eternal and there is a second life 
among the shades.' * i. 449-62. 


whom the Bear looks down, happy in this error, whom of 
fears the greatest moves not, the dread of death. Hence 
their warrior's heart hurls them against the steel, hence 
their ready welcome of death, and the thought that it 
were a coward's part to grudge a life sure of its return.' ^ 
Dr. Douglas Hyde, in his Literary History of Ireland (p. 95), 
speaking for the Irish people, says of the re-birth doctrine : — 
' . . . the idea of re-birth which forms part of half a dozen 
existing Irish sagas, was perfectly familiar to the Irish 
Gael. . . .' According to another modern Celtic authority, 
D'Arbois de JubainviUe, two chief Celtic doctrines or beliefs 
were the return of the ghosts of the dead and the re-birth 
of the same individuality in a new human body here on 
this planet. 2 

Reincarnation of the Tuatha De Danann 

We proceed now directly to show that there was also 
a belief, probably widespread, among the ancient Irish 
that divine personages, national heroes who are members of 
the Tuatha De Danann or Sidhe race, and great men, can be 
reincarnated, that is to say, can descend to this plane of 
existence and be as mortals more than once. This aspect 
of the Celtic Doctrine of Re-birth has been clearly set forth 
by the publications of such eminent Celtic folk-lorists as 
Alfred Nutt and Miss Eleanor Hull. Miss Hull, in her study 
of Old Irish Tabus, or Gesa,^ referring to the Cuchulainn Cycle 
of Irish literature and mythology, writes thus : — * There is 
no doubt that all the chief personages of this cycle were » 
regarded as the direct descendants, or it would be more 
correct to say, as avatars or reincarnations of the early ^ 
gods. Not only are their pedigrees traced up to the Tuatha 
De Danann, but there are indications in the birth-stories of 
nearly all the principal personages that they are looked 
upon simply as divine beings reborn on the human plane of ^ 

* Lucan, i. 457-8 ; i. 458-62. 

» Cf. Le Cycle Myth. Irl., pp. 345, 347 ff. 

• Folk-Lore, xii. 64, &c. ; also cf. Eleanor Hull, The CuchtiUm Saga in 
Irish Literature (London, 1898), Intro., p. 23, &c. 


life. These indications are mysterious, and most of the tales 
which deal with them show signs of having been altered, 
perhaps intentionally, by the Christian transcribers. The 
doctrine of re-birth was naturally not one acceptable to 
them. . . . The goddess Etain becomes the mortal wife of 
a king of Ireland. . . . Conchobhar, moreover, is spoken 
of as a terrestrial god ; ^ and Dechtire, his sister, and the 
mother of Cuchulainn, is called a goddess. ^ In the case of 
Cuchulainn himself, it is distinctly noted that he is the 
avatar of Lugh lamhf ada (long-hand) , the sun-deity ^ of the 
earliest cycle. Lugh appears to Dechtire, the mother of 
Cuchulainn, and tells her that he himself is her little child, 
i. e. that the child is a reincarnation of himself ; and Cuchu- 
lainn, when inquired of as to his birth, points proudly to his 
descent from Lugh. When, too, it is proposed to find a wife 
for the hero, the reason assigned is, that they knew " that 
his re-birth would be of himself " (i. e. that only from himself 
could another such as he have origin).'* We have in this 
last a clue to the popular Irish belief regarding the re-birth 
of beings of a god-like nature. D'Arbois de JubainviUe has 
shown,^ also, that the grandfather of Cuchulainn, son of 
Sualtaim, was from the country of the Sidhe, and so was 
Ethne Ingube, the sister of Sualtaim. And Dechtire, the 
mother of Cuchulainn, was the daughter of the Druid Cathba 
and the brother of King Conchobhar. Thus the ancestry of 
the great hero of the Red Branch Knights of Ulster is both 
royal and divine. And Conall Cernach, Cuchulainn's com- 
rade and avenger, apparently from a tale in the Coir Anmann 
(Fitness of Names), composed probably during the twelfth 
century, was also a reincarnated Tuatha De Danann hero.^ 

* What is probably the oldest form of a tale concerning Conchobhar 's 
birth makes Conchobhar ' the son of a god who incarnated himself in the 
same way as did Lug and Etain' (cf. Voy. of Bran, ii. 7^). 

' See Leabhar na h-Uidhre, loi^; and Book of Leinster, 123'': — * Cuchu- 
lainn mc dea dechtiri.' 

* We have already mentioned the belief that gods having their abode in 
the sun could leave it to assume bodies here on earth and become culture 
heroes and great teachers (see p. 309). 

* From Wooing of Enter in Leabhar na h-Uidhre ; cf. Voy. of Bran, ii. 97. 

* L' Epopee celt, en Irl., p. 11. • Cf. Voy. of Bran, ii. p. 74 ff. 



Practically all the extant manuscripts dealing with the 
ancient literature and mythology of the Gaels were written 
by Christian scribes or else copied by them from older 
manuscripts, so that, as Miss Hull points out, what few 
Irish re-birth stories have come down to us — and they are 
probably but remnants of an extensive re-birth literature 
like that of India — have been more or less altered. Yet to 
these scholarly scribes of the early monastic schools, who 
kept alive the sacred fire of learning while their own country 
was being plundered by foreign invaders and the rest of 
mediaeval Europe plunged in warfare, the world owes a debt 
of gratitude ; for to their efforts alone, in spite of a re- 
shaping of matter naturally to be expected, is due almost 
everything recorded on parchments concerning pagan Ireland. 

The Re-birth Story Concerning King Mongan 

We have preserved to us a remarkable re-birth story in 
which the characters are known to be historical.^ It con- 
cerns a quarrel between the king of Ulster, Mongan, son of 
Fiachna — who, according to the Annals of Ireland by the 
Four Masters (i. 245), was killed in A. d. 620 by Arthur, son 
of Bicor — and ForgoU, the poet of Mongan. ^ The dispute 
between them was as to the place of the death of Fothad 
Airgdech, a king of Ireland who was killed by Cailte, one of 
the warriors of Find, in a battle whose date is fixed by the 
Four Masters in A. D. 285.^ Forgoll pretended that Fothad 

* In the Leabhar na h-Uidhre, I33*-I34^; cf. Le Cycle Myth. Irl., 
PP- 336-43 ; cf. Voy. of Bran, i. 49-52 ; cf. O'Curry, Manners and Customs, 
iii. 175. 

^ Cf. Stokes's ed. Annals of Tigernach, Third Frag, in Rev. Celt. xvii. 178. 
In the piece called Tucait baile Mongdin in the Leabhar na h-Uidhre, 
p. 134, col. 2, ' Mongan is seen living with his wife the year of the death of 
Ciaran mac int Shair, and of Tuathal Mael-Garb, that is to say in 544,' 
following the Chronicum Scotorum, Hennessy's ed., pp. 48-g. As D'Arbois 
de Jubainville adds, the Irish chronicles of this epoch are only approximate 
in their dates. Thus, while the Four Masters (i. 243) makes the death of 
Mongan a. d. 620, the Annals of Ulster makes it a. d. 625, the Chronicum 
Scotorum a. d. 625, the Annals of Clonmacnoise, a. d. 624, and Egerton MS. 
1782 a.d. 615 (cf. Voy. of Bran, i. 137-9). 

' J. O'Donovan, Annals of Ireland by the Four Masters (Dublin, 1856), 
i. 121. 


had been killed at Duffry, in Leinster, and Mongan asserted 
that* it was on the river Larne (anciently Ollarba) in County 
Antrim. Enraged at being contradicted, even though it 
were by the king, Forgoll threatened Mongan with terrible 
incantations ; and it was agreed that unless Mongan proved 
his assertion within three days, his queen should pass under 
the control of Forgoll. Mongan, however, had spoken truly 
and with certain secret knowledge, and felt sure of winning. 

When the third day was almost expired and Forgoll had 
presented himself ready to claim the wager, there was heard 
coming in the distance the one whom Mongan awaited. It 
was Cailte himself, come from the Otherworld to bear testi- 
mony to the truthfulness of the king and to confound the 
audacious presumptions of the poet Forgoll. It was evening 
when he reached the palace. The king Mongan was seated 
on his throne, and the queen at his right full of fear 
about the outcome, and in front stood the poet Forgoll 
claiming the wager. No one knew the strange warrior as 
he entered the court, save the king. 

Cailte, when fully informed of the quarrel and the wager, 
quickly announced so that all heard him distinctly, ' The 
poet has lied ! ' ' You will regret those words,' replied the 
poet. * What you say does not well become you,' re- 
sponded Cailte in turn, ' for I will prove what I say.' And 
straightway Cailte revealed this strange secret : that he 
had been one of the companions in arms under the great 
warrior Find, who was also his teacher, and that Mongan, 
the .king before whom he spoke, was the reincarnation of 
Find : — 

* We were with thee,' said Cailte, addressing the king. 
* We were with Find.' ' Know, however,* replied Mongan, 
' that you do wrong in revealing a secret.' But the warrior 
continued : * We were therefore with Find. We came from 
Scotland. We encountered Fothad Airgdech near here, on 
the shores of the Ollarba. We gave him furious battle. 
I cast my spear at him in such a manner that it passed 
through his body, and the iron point, detaching itself from 
the staff, became fixed in the earth on the other side of 

B b 2 


Fothad. Behold here [in my hand] the shaft of that spear. 
There will be found the bare rock from the top of which 
I let fly my weapon. There will be found a little further 
to the east the iron point sunken in the earth. There will 
be found again a little further, always to the east, the tomb 
of Fothad Airgdech. A coffin of stone covers his body ; his 
two bracelets of silver, his two arm-rings, and his neck- 
torque of silver are in the coffin. Above the tomb rises 
a pillar-stone, and on the upper extremity of that stone 
which is planted in the earth one may read an inscription 
in ogam: Here reposes Fothad Airgdech; he was fighting 
against Find when Cailte slew him.' 

And to the consternation of Forgoll, what this warrior 
who came from the Otherworld declared was true, for 
there were found the place indicated by him, the rock, the 
spear-head, the pillar-stone, the inscription, the coffin of 
stone, the body in it, and the jewellery. Thus Mongan gained * 
the wager ; and the secret of his life which he alone had • 
known was revealed — he was Find re-born ^ ; and Cailte, his i 
old pupil and warrior-companion, had come from the land of i 
the dead to aid him ^ : — ' It was Cailte, Find's foster-son, i 
that had come to them. Mongan, however, was Find, » 
though he would not let it be told.' ^ But not only was* 
Mongan an Irish king, he was also a god, the son of the 
Tuatha De Danann Manannan Mac Lir : * this Mongan is 
a son of Manannan Mac Lir, though he is called Mongan, 
son of Fiachna.' ^ And so it is that long after their conquest ■ 
the People of the Goddess Dana ruled their conquerors, for 
they took upon themselves human bodies, being born as the r 
children of the kings of Mil's Sons. *- 

There are other episodes which show very clearly the 
relationship between Mongan incarnated in a human body 
and his divine father Manannan. Thus, * When Mongan 
was three nights old, Manannan came for him and took him ^ 
with him to bring up in the Land of Promise, and vowed » 

* Cf. Le Cycle Myth. Irl., pp. 336-43 ; O'Curry, Manners and Customs 
iii. 175 ; L. U., i33*-i34'»; and Voy. of Bran, i. 52. 

* Voy. of Bran, i. 44-5 ; from The Conception of Mongan. 


that he would not let him back into Ireland before he were r 
twelve years of age.' And after Mongan has become Ulster's ^ 
high king, Manannan comes to him to rouse him out of human • 
slothfulness to a consciousness of his divine nature and » 
mission, and of the need of action : Mongan and his wife » 
were frittering away their time playing a game, when they 
beheld a dark black-tufted little cleric standing at the door- 
post, who said : — * ** This inactivity in which thou art, 
O Mongan, is not an inactivity becoming a king of Ulster, 
not to go to avenge thy father on Fiachna the Black, son 
of Deman, though Dubh-Lacha may think it wrong to tell 
thee so. . . ." Mongan seized the kingship of Ulster, and 
the little cleric who had done the reason was Manannan 
the great and mighty.' ^ 

In the ancient tale of the Voyage of Bran — probably com- 
posed in its present form during the eighth, possibly the 
seventh, century A. d. — there is another version of the 
Mongan Re-birth Story, which, being later in origin and 
composition than the Voyage itself, was undoubtedly clumsily 
inserted into the manuscript, as scholars think.^ Therein, 
Mongan as the offspring of Manannan by the woman of 
Line-mag — quite after the theory of the Christian Incar- r 
nation — is described as * a fair man in a body of white clay '. • 
This and what follows in the introductory quatrain show 
how early Celtic doctrines correspond to or else were origi- ■ 
nated by those of the Christians. And the transcriber seeing ' 
the parallels, glossed and altered the text which he copied by 
introducing Christian phraseology so as to fit it in with his 
own idea — altogether improbable — that the references are to • 
the coming of Jesus Christ. The references are to Manannan 
and to the woman of Line-mag, who by him was to be 
the mother of Mongan — as Mary the wife of Joseph was the 
mother of Jesus Christ by God the Father : — 

A noble salvation will come » 

From the King who has created us, ? 

A white law will come over seas. 
Besides being God, He will be man. 

* Meyer's version, Voy. of Bran, i. 73-4. * Cf. Voy. of Bran, i. 137. 


This shape, he on whom thou lookest, 
Will come to thy parts ; 
'Tis mine to journey to her house, 
To the woman in Line-mag. 

For it is Moninnan, the son of Ler, 

From the chariot in the shape of a man, 4 

• ••••• 

He will delight the company of every fairy-knoll, ^ 

He will be the darling of every goodly land, , 

He will make known secrets — a course of wisdom — , 

In the world, without being feared. , 

To him is attributed the power of shape-shifting, which is 
not transmigration into animal forms, but a magical power 
exercised by him in a human body. 

He will be throughout long ages 
An hundred years in fair kingship 

• • • • • 

Moninnan, the son of Ler 
Will be his father, his tutor. 

At his death 

The white host (the angels or fairies) will take him ^ 

under a wheel (chariot) of clouds , 

To the gathering where there is no sorrow.^ ^ 

The Birth of Etain of the Tuatha De Danann ^ 

Another clear example of one of the Tuatha De Danann 
being born as a mortal is recorded in the famous saga of 
the Wooing of Etain. Three fragments of this story exist 
in the Book of the Dun Cow. The first tells how Etain 
Echraide, daughter of Ailill and wife of Midir (a great king 
among the Sidhe people) was driven out of Fairyland by < 
the jealousy of her husband's other wife, and how after ' 
being wafted about on the winds of this world she fell ' 
invisibly into the drinking-cup of the wife of Etar of Inber ' 
Cichmaine, who was an Ulster chieftain. The chieftain's ^ 
wife swallowed her ; and, in due time, gave birth to a girl : — ^ 

* Voy. of Bran y i. 22-8, quatrains 48-59, &c. 

2 In L. U. ; cf. Le Cycle Myth. Jrl., pp. 311-22 ; and Voy. of Bran, ii. 


* It was one thousand and twelve years from the first beget- 
ting of Etain by AiUll to the last begetting by Etar.' Etain, 
retaining her own name, grew up thence as an Irish 

One day an unknown man of very stately aspect suddenly 
appeared to Etain the princess ; and as suddenly disappeared, 
after he had sung to her a wonderful song designed to arouse 
in her the subconscious memories of her past existence 
among the Sidhe : — 

So is Etain here to-day. . . . 
Among little children is her lot. . . . 
It is she was gulped in the drink 
By Etar's wife in a heavy draught. 

The scribe ends this part of the story by letting it be 
known that Midir has struck off the head of his other wife, 
Fuamnach, the cause of all Etain's trouble. 

The second section of the tale introduces Etain as queen 
of Eochaid Airem, high king of Ireland, and the most curious 
and important part of it shows how she was loved by Ailill 
Aenguba. Ailill, so far as blood kinship went, was the brother 
of Eochaid, though apparently either an incarnation of 
Midir or else possessed by him : Etain acceded to his love, 
but he was under a strange love-weakness ; and on two 
occasions when he attempted to advance his desires an over- 
powering sleep fell on him, and each time Etain met a man 
in Ailill's shape — as though it were his * double ' — bemoan- 
ing his weakness. On a third occasion she asked who the 
man was, and he declared himself to be Midir, and besought 
her to return with him to the Otherworld. But her worldly 
or human memory clouded her subconscious memory, and 
she did not recognize Midir, yet promised to go with him on 
gaining Eochaid's permission. After this event, curiously 
enough, Ailill was healed of his strange love-malady. 

In the third part of the story, Midir and Eochaid are 

* In the Irish conception of re-birth there is no change of sex : Lug is 
re-born as a boy, in Cuchulainn ; Finn as Mongan ; Etain as a girl. But 
it seems that Etain as a mortal had no consciousness of her previous divine 
existence, while Cuchulainn and Mongan knew their non-human origin 
and pre-existence. 


playing games. Midir loses the first two and with them 
great riches, but winning the third claims the right to place 
his arms about Etain and kiss her. Eochaid asked a month's 
delay. The last day of the month had passed. It was night. 
Eochaid in his palace at Tara awaited the coming of his 
rival, Midir ; and though all the doors of the palace had 
been firmly closed for the occasion, and armed soldiers sur- 
rounded the queen, Midir like a spirit suddenly stood in the 
centre of the court and claimed the wager. Then, grasping 
and kissing Etain, he mounted in the air with her and very 
quickly passed out through the opening of the great chimney. 
In consternation. King Eochaid and his warriors hurried 
without the palace ; and there, on looking up, they saw 
two white swans flying over Tara, bound together by 
a golden chain.^ 

The Pre-existence of Dermot 

With a difficult task before him, Dermot — as was the case 
with Mongan — is reminded of his pre-existence as a hero in 
the Otherworld with Manannan Mac Lir and Angus Oge : — 
* Now spoke Fergus Truelips, Finn's ollave, and said : 
" Cowardly and punily thou shrinkest, Dermot ; for with 
most potent Manannan, son of Lir, thou studiedst and wast 
brought up, in the Land of Promise and in the bay-indented 
coasts ; with Angus Oge, too, the Daghda's son, wast most 
accurately taught ; and it is not just that now thou lackest 
even a moderate portion of their skill and daring, such as 
might serve to convey Finn and his party up this rock or 
bastion." At these words Dermot 's face grew red ; he laid 
hold on Manannan's magic staves that he had, and, as once 
again he redly blushed, by dint of skill in martial feats he 
with a leap rose on his javelin's shafts and so gained his two 

* Some time after this, according to one part of the tale, Eochaid stormed 
Midir 's fairy palace — for the purpose localized in Ireland — and won Etain 
back, but the fairies cast a curse on his race for this, and Conaire, his 
grandson, fell a victim to it. Such a recovering of Etain by Eochaid may * 
vaguely suggest a re-birth of Etain, through the power exerted by Eochaid, » 
who, being a king, is to be regarded in his non-human nature as one of the " 
Tuatha De Danann himself, like Midir his rival. ' 


soles' breadth of the solid glebe that overhung the water's 
edge.' ^ 

Re-birth of Tuan 

Tuan, as the son of Starn, lived one hundred years as the 
brother of Partholon, the first man to reach Ireland ; and 
then, after two hundred and twenty years, was re-born as 
the son of Cairell. This story in its oldest form is preserved 
in the Book of the Dun Cow, and seems to have been com- 
posed during the late ninth or early tenth century.^ 

* Cf. The Gilla decair, in Silva Gadelica, pp. 300-3. 

* Cf. Voy. of Bran, ii. j6 ff. The Christian scribe's version fills up the 
space between Tuan's death and re-birth by making him pass eighty years 
as a stag, twenty as a wild boar, one hundred as an eagle, and twenty as 
a salmon (ib., p. 79). In this particular example, the uninitiated scribe 
(evidently having failed to grasp an important aspect of the re-birth 
doctrine as this was esoterically explained in the Mysteries, namely, that 
between death and re-birth, while the conscious Ego is resident in the 
Otherworld, the physical atoms of the discarded human body may trans- 
migrate through various plant and animal bodies) appears to set forth as 
Celtic an erroneous doctrine of the transmigration of the conscious Ego 
itself (see p. 5 1 3 n. ). In other texts, for example in the song which Amairgen 
(considered the Gaelic equivalent or even original of the Brythonic Talies- 
sin) sang as he, with the conquering Sons of Mil, set foot on Ireland, there 
are similar transformations, attributed to certain heroes like Taliessin 
(see the Mahinogion) and Tuan mac Cairill during their disembodied states 
after death and until re-birth. But these transformations seem to echo 
poetically, and often rationally, a very mystical Celtic pantheism, in which 
Man, regarded as having evolved upwards through all forms and con- 
ditions of existence, is at one with all creation : — 

I am the wind which blows o'er the sea; 

I am the wave of the deep ; 

I am the bull of seven battles ; 

I am the eagle on the rock ; 

I am a tear of the sun ; 

I am the fairest of plants ; 

I am a boar for courage ; 

I am a salmon in the water ; 

I am a lake in the plain ; 

I am the world of knowledge ; 

I am the head of the battle-dealing spear ; 

I am the god who fashions fire in the head ; 

Who spreads light in the gathering on the mountain? 

Who foretells the ages of the moon ? 

Who teaches the spot where the sun rests ? 

And Amairgen also says: — *I am,' [Taliessin] 'I have been' {Book of Inva- 
sions ; cf. Voy. of Bran, ii. 91-2 ; cf. Rhys, Hib. Lect., p. 549; cf. Skene, 
Four Ancient Books, i. 276 ff.). 

In later times, especially among non-bardic poets, there has been a 


Re-birth among the Brythons 

Such then are the re-birth stories of the Gaels. Among 
the Brythons the same ancient doctrine prevailed, though 
we have fewer clear records of it. Of the Brythonic Re- 
birth Doctrine as philosophically expounded in Barddas, 
mention has already been made. 

In the ancient Welsh story about Taliessin, Gwion after 
many transformations, magical in their nature, is re-born 
as that great poet of Wales, his mother being a goddess, 
Caridwen, who dwells beneath the waters of Lake Tegid. 
In its present mystical form this tale cannot be traced 
further than the end of the sixteenth century, though the 
transformation incidents are presupposed in the Book of 
Taliessin, a thirteenth-century manuscript.^ Besides being 
the re-birth of Gwion, Taliessin may be regarded as a bardic 
initiate high in degree, who is possessed of all magical and 
druidical powers.^ He made a voyage to the Otherworld, 
Caer Sidi ; and this seems to indicate some close connexion 
between ancient rites of initiation and his occult knowledge 
of all things.2 Like the Irish re-birth and Otherworld tales, 

similar tendency to misinterpret this primitive mystical Celtic pantheism 
into the corrupt form of the re-birth doctrine, namely transmigration of 
the human soul into animal bodies. Dr. Douglas Hyde has sent to me the 
following evidence : — ' I have a poem, consisting of nearly one hundred 
stanzas, about a pig who ate an Irish manuscript, and who by eating 
it recovered human speech for twenty-four hours and gave his master an 
account of his previous embodiments. He had been a right-hand man of 
Cromwell, a weaver in France, a subject of the Grand Signor, &c. The 
poem might be about one hundred or one hundred and fifty years old.' 
It is probable that the poet who composed this poem intended to add 
a touch of modern Irish humour by making use of the pig. We should, 
nevertheless, bear in mind that the pig (or, as is more commonly the rule, 
the wild boar) holds a very curious and prominent position in the ancient 
mythology of Ireland, and of Wales as well. It was regarded as a magical 
animal (cf. p. 451 n.) ; and, apparently, was also a Druid symbol, whose 
meaning we have lost. Possibly the poet may have been aware of this. 
If so, he does not necessarily imply transmigration of the human soul into 
animal bodies ; but is merely employing symbolism. 

^ See Taliessin in the Mabinogion, and the Book of Taliessin in Skene's 
Four Ancient Books, i. 523 ff. ; cf. Nutt, Voy. of Bran, ii. 84, and Rh^^s, 
Hib. Led., pp. 548, 551. 

* Cf. Rh>>s, Hib. Led., pp. 548-50. 


it also suggests the relation between the world of death or 
Faerie and the world of human embodiment. 

From his harrying of Hades, the Brythonic Gwydion 
secured the Head of Hades* Cauldron of Regeneration or 
Re-birth ; and when corpses of slain warriors are thrown 
into it they arise next day as excellent as ever, except that 
they are unable to speak ; which circumstance may be equal 
to saying that the ordinary uninitiated man when re-born is 
unable to speak of his previous incarnation, because he has 
no memory of it. This Cauldron of Re-birth, like so many 
objects mentioned in the ancient bardicliterature, is evidently 
a mystic symbol : it suggests the same correspondences, as 
propounded in the modern Barddas, between the dead and 
the living, between death and re-birth ; and Gwydion having 
been a great culture hero of Wales probably promulgated 
a doctrine of re-birth, and hence is described as being able 
to resuscitate the dead.^ 

King Arthur as a Reincarnated Hero 

Judging from substantial evidence set forth above in 
chapter v, the most famous of all Welsh heroes, Arthur, 
equally with Cuchulainn his Irish counterpart, can safely 
be considered both as a god apart from the human plane of 
existence, and thus like the Tuatha De Danann or Fairy- 
Folk, and also like a great national hero and king (such as 
Mongan was) incarnated in a physical body. The taking of 
Arthur to Avalon by his life-guardian, the Lady of the Lake, 
and by his own sister, and by two other fairy women who 
live in that Otherworld of Sacred Apple-Groves, is sufficient 
in itself, we believe, to prove him of a descent more divine 
than that of ordinary men. And the belief in his return 
from that Otherworld — a return so confidently looked for 
by the Brythonic peoples — seems to be a belief (whether 
recognized as such or not) that the Great Hero will be 
reincarnated as a Messiah destined to set them free. In 
Avalon, Arthur lives now, and ' It is from there that the 
Britons of England and of France have for a long time 

' Cf. Rhys, Hib. Led., p. 259 ; and Arth. Leg., p. 252. 


awaited his coming *.* And Malory expressing the senti- 
ment in his age writes ^ : — ' Yet some men say in many parts 
of England that King Arthur is not dead, but had by the 
will of our Lord Jesu into another place ; and men say that 
he shall come again, and he shall win the holy cross. I will 
not say it shall be so, but rather I will say, here in this world 
he changed his life.' If we consider Arthur's passing and 
expected return, as many do, in a purely mythological aspect, 
we must think of him for the time as a sun-god, and yet 
even then cannot escape altogether from the re-birth idea ; 
for, as a study of ancient Egyptian mythology shows, there 
is still the same set of relations.^ There are the sun-symbols 
always made use of to set forth the doctrine of re-birth, 
be it Egyptian, Indian, Mexican, or Celtic : — the death of 
a mortal like the passing of Arthur is represented by the 
sun-set on the horizon between the visible world here and 
the invisible world beyond the Western Ocean, and the 
re-birth is the sunrise of a new day. 

Non-Celtic Parallels 

As a non-Celtic parallel to what has preceded concerning 
the Otherworld of the Celts and their Doctrine of Re-birth, 
we offer the second of the Stories of the High-priests of 
Memphis, as published by Mr. F. L. Griffith from ancient 
manuscripts.* It is a history of Si-Osiri (the son of Osiris), 
whose father was Setme Khamuas. This wonderful divine 
son when still a child took his human father on a journey 
to see Amenti, the Otherworld of the Dead ; and when 
twelve years of age he was wiser than the wisest of the scribes 
and unequalled in magic. At this period in his life there 
arrived in Egypt an Ethiopian magician who came with the 

* Loth, Les Mabinogion, Kulhwch et Olwen, p. 187 n. 
2 Le Morte D' Arthur, Book XXI, c. vii. 

* See works on Egyptian mythology and religion, by Maspero; also 
Lenormant, Chaldean Magic, p. 84, &c. 

* F. L. Griffith, Stories of the High-priests of Memphis (Oxford, 1900), 
c. iii. The text of this story is written on the back of two Greek documents, 
bearing the date of the seventh year of the Emperor Claudius (a. d, 46-7), 
not before published. 


object of humbling the kingdom ; but Si-Osiri read what 
was in the unopened letter of the stranger, and knew that 
its bearer was the reincarnation of * Hor the son of the - 
Negress * , the most formidable of the three Ethiopian 
magicians who fifteen hundred years before had waged war 
with the magicians of Egypt. At that time the Egyptian 
Hor, the son of Pa-neshe, had defeated the great magician 
of Ethiopia in the final struggle between White and Black 
Magic which took place in the presence of the Pharaoh.^ 
And * Hor the son of the Negress ' had agreed not to return 
to Egypt again for fifteen hundred years. But now the time 
was elapsed, and, unmasking the character of the messenger, 
Si-Osiri destroyed him with magical fire. After this, Si-Osiri 
revealed himself as the reincarnation of Hor the son of 
Pa-neshe, and declared that Osiris had permitted him to 
return to earth to destroy the powerful hereditary enemy of 
Egypt. When the revelation was made, Si-Osiri ' passed 
away as a shade ', going back again, even as the Celtic 
Arthur, into the realm invisible from which he came. 

As in ancient Ireland, where many kings or great heroes 
were regarded as direct incarnations or reincarnations of 
gods or divine beings from the Otherworld, so in Egypt the 
Pharaohs were thought to be gods in human bodies, sent by 
Osiris to rule the Children of the Sun.^ In Mexico and Peru 
there was a similar belief.^ In the Indian Mahdbhdrata, 
Rama and Krishna are at once gods and men.* The cele- 
brated philosophical poem known as the Bhagavadgitd also 
asserts Krishna's descent from the gods ; and the same 
view is again enforced and extended in the Hari-vansa and 
especially in the Bhdgavata Purdna.^ The Indian Laws of 
Manu say that * even an infant king must not be despised 
from an idea that he is a mere mortal ; for he is a great 

^ It is interesting to compare with this episode the episodes of how the 
magic of St. Patrick prevailed over the magic of the Druids when the old 
and the new religions met in warfare on the Hill of Tara, in the presence 
of the high king of Ireland and his court. 

* E. A. Wallis Budge, The Gods of the Egyptians (London, 1904), p. 3. 
' Prescott, Conquest of Mexico and Conquest of Peru. 

* W. Crooke, The Legends of Krishna, in Folk-Lore, xi. 2-3 ff. 


deity in human form '} In ancient Greece it was a common 
opinion that Zeus was reincarnated from age to age in the 
great national heroes. ' Alexander the Great was regarded 
not merely as the son of Zeus, but as Zeus himself.' And 
other great Greeks were regarded as gods while living on* 
earth, like Lycurgus the Spartan law-giver, who after his 
death was worshipped as one of the divine ones.^ 

Among the great philosophers, the ancient doctrine of re- 
birth was a personal conviction : Buddha related very many 
of his previous reincarnations, according to the Gdtakamdld; 
Pythagoras is said to have gone to the temple of Here and 
recognized there an ancient shield which he had carried in 
a previous life when he was Euphorbus, a Homeric hero.^ 
From what Plato, in his Meno, quoted from an old poet, 
it seems very probable that there may be some sort of 
relationship between legends mentioning the Rites of Proser- 
pine, like the legend of Aeneas in Virgil, and certain of the 
Irish Otherworld and Re-birth legends among the Gaels, as 
we have already suggested : — ' For from whomsoever Perse- 
phone hath accepted the atonement of ancient woe, their 
souls she sendeth up once more to the upper sun in the 
ninth year. From these grow up glorious kings and men of 
swift strength, and men surpassing in poetical skill ; and 
for all future time they are called holy heroes among men.* 
Among modern philosophers and poets in Europe and 
America the same ideas find their echo : Wordsworth in 
his Ode to Immortality definitely inculcates pre-existence ; 
Emerson in his Threnody, and Tennyson in his De Profundis, 
seem committed to the re-birth doctrine, and Walt Whitman 
in his Leaves of Grass without doubt accepted it as true. 
Certain German philosophers, too, appear to hold views 
in harmony with what is also the Celtic Doctrine of 
Re-birth, e.g. Schopenhauer, in The World as Will and 
Idea, J. G. Fichte, in The Destiny of Man, and Herder, in 

* Laws of Manu, vii. 8, trans, by G. Biihler. 

* A. B. Cook, European Sky-God, in Folk-Lore, xv. 301-4. 

* Cf. Lucian, Somn., 17, &c. See Tylor, Prim. Cult.,* ii. 13 ; also Ter- 
tuUian, De Anima, c. xxviii, where Pythagoras is described as having 
previously been Aethalides, and Euphorbus, and the fisherman Pyrrhus. 


Dialogues on Metempsychosis. The Emperor of Japan is still 
the Divine Child of the Sun, the head of the Order of the 
Rising Sun, and is always regarded by his subjects as the 
incarnation of a great being. The Great Lama of Thibet is 
believed to reincarnate immediately after death.^ William II 
of Germany seems to echo, perhaps unconsciously, the same 
doctrine when he claims to be ruling by divine right. ^ 

That the Celtic Doctrine of Re-birth is a direct and com- 
plete confirmation of the Psychological Theory of the nature 
and origin of the belief in fairies is self-evident. Could it be 
shown to be scientifically plausible in itself, as well-educated 
Celts consider it to be — and much evidence to be derived 
from a study of states of consciousness, e. g. dreams, 
somnambulism, trance, crystal-gazing, changed personality, 
subconsciousness, and so forth, indicates that it might be 
shown to be so — it would effectively prove the theory. 
Fairies would then be beings of the Otherworld who can 
enter the human plane of life by submitting to the natural 
process of birth in a physical body, and would correspond 
to the Alcheringa ancestors of the Arunta. In chapter xii 
following, such a proof of the theory is attempted. 

Re-birth Among Modern Celts 

One of the chief objects of this chapter is to show that the 
Re-birth Doctrine of the Celts, like most beliefs bound up 
with the Fairy- Faith, still survives ; thus further proving 
that Celtic tradition is an unbroken thing from times pre- 
historic until to-day. We shall therefore proceed to bring 
forward the following original material, collected by our- 
selves, as evidence on this point : — 

In Ireland 

In Ireland I found two districts where the Re-birth 
Doctrine has not been wholly forgotten. The first one is in 

* Cf. Hue, Souvenirs d'un voyage dans la Tartarie et le Thibet, i. 279 ff. 

' The doctrine of kingly rule by divine right was substituted after the 
conversion of the Roman Empire for the very ancient belief that the 
emperor was a god incarnate (not necessarily reincarnate) ; and the same 
christianized aspect of a pre-Christian doctrine stands behind the English 
kingship at the present day. 

the country round Knock Ma, near Tuam. After Mrs. 

had told me about fairies, I led up to the subject of re-birth, 
and the most valuable of all my Irish finds concerning the 
belief was the result. For this woman of Belclare told me 
that it was believed by many of the old people, when she 
was a girl living a few miles west of Knock Ma, that they 
had lived on this earth before as men and women ; but, she 
added, ' You could hardly get them to talk about their 
belief. It was a sort of secret which they who held it dis- 
cussed freely only among themselves.' They believed, too, 
that disease and misfortune in old age come as a penalty for 
sins committed in a former life.^ This expiatory or pur- 
gatorial aspect of the Re-birth Doctrine seems to have been 
more widespread than the doctrine in its bare outlines ; for 
the Belclare woman in speaking of it was able to recall from 
memories of forty-five or fifty years ago what was then 
a popular story about a disease-worn man and an eel- 
fisherman : — 

The diseased man as he watches the eel-fisherman taking 
up his baskets, contrasts his own wretched physical con- 
dition with the vigour and good health of the latter, and 
attributes the misfortune which is upon himself to bad 
actions in a life prior to the one he is then living. And here 
is the unhappy man's lamentation : — 

Fliuch, fuar ata mo leabaidh ; 
At a fearthainn agus geur-ghaoith ; 
Ataim ag ioc na h-uaille, 
A's tusa ag faire do chliaibhin. 

(Wet, cold is my bed ; 

There is rain and sharp wind ; 

I am paying for pride, 

And you watching your [eel-] basket.) 

* A curious parallel to this Irish doctrine that through re-birth one suffers 
for the sins committed in a previous earth-life is found in the Christian 
scriptures, where in asking Jesus about a man born blind, ' Rabbi, who did 
sin, this man, or his parents, that he should be born blind ? ' the disciple 
exhibits what must have been a popular Jewish belief in re-birth quite like 
the Celtic one. See St. John ix. 1-2. Though the Rabbis admitted the 
possibility of ante-natal sin in thought, this passage seems to point un- 
mistakably to a Jewish re-birth doctrine. 


The teller of the story insisted on giving me these verses 
in Irish, for she said they have much less meaning in English, 
and I took them down ; and to verify them and the story 
in which they find a place, I went to the cottage a second 
time. There is no doubt, therefore, that the legend is 
a genuine echo of the religion of pre-Christian Ireland, in 
which reincarnation appears to have been clearly inculcated 
and was probably the common belief. 

I once asked Steven Ruan, the Galway piper, if he had 
ever heard of such a thing as people being born more than 
once here on this earth, seeing that I was seeking for traces 
of the old Irish Doctrine of Re-birth. The answer he gave me 
was this : — * I have often heard it said that people born and 
dead come into this world again. I have heard the old people 
say that we have lived on this earth before ; and I have often 
met old men and women who believed they had lived before. 
The idea passed from one old person to another, and was 
a common belief, though you do not hear much about it now.' 

A highly educated Irishman now living in California tells 
me of his own knowledge that there was a popular and 
sincere belief among many of the Irish people throughout 
Ireland that Charles Parnell, their great champion in modern . 
times, was the reincarnation of one of the old Gaelic heroes. 
This shows how the ancient doctrine is still practically 
applied. There is also an opinion held by certain very 
prominent Irishmen now living in Ireland, with whom I have 
been privileged to discuss the re-birth doctrine, that both 
Patrick and Columba are likewise to be regarded as ancient 
Gaelic heroes, who were reincarnated to work for the 
uplifting of the Gael.^ 

* It is interesting to note in connexion with these two complementary 
ideas what has been written by Mr. Standish O 'Grady concerning strange 
phenomena witnessed at the time of Charles Parnell 's funeral : — ' While 
his followers were committing Charles Parnell's remains to the earth, the 
sky was bright with strange lights and flames. Only a coincidence possibly ; 
and yet persons not superstitious have maintained that there is some 
mysterious sympathy between the human soul and the elements. . . . 
Those strange flames recalled to my memory what is told of similar pheno- 
mena said to have been witnessed when tidings of the death of the great 



A legend concerning Lough Gur, County Limerick, indi- 
^ cates that the sleeping-hero type of tale is a curious aspecti* 
of an ancient re-birth doctrine. In such tales, heroes and 
their warrior companions are held under enchantment, 
awaiting the mystic hour to strike for them to issue forth 
and free their native land from the rule of the Saxon. Usually 
they are so held within a mysterious cavern, as is the case of ' 
Arthur and his men, according to differently localized Welsh ' 
stories ; or they are in the depths of magic hills and moun-^ 
tains like most Irish heroes. The heroes under enchantment • 
with their companions are to be considered as resident in 
the Otherworld, and their return to human action as a return 
to the human plane of life. The Lough Gur legend is about 
Garret Fitzgerald, the Earl of Desmond, who rebelled i 
against Queen Elizabeth. Modern folk-tradition regards ' 
him as the guardian deity of the Lough, and as dwelling in * 
an enchanted palace situated beneath its waters. As Count ' 
John de Salis, whose ancestral home is the Lough Gur 
estate, assures me, the peasants of the region declare them- 
selves convinced that the earl once in seven years appears 
riding across the lake surface on a phantom white horse 
shod with shoes of silver ; and they believe that when the 
horse's silver shoes are worn out the enchantment will end. 
Then, like Arthur when his stay in Avalon ends, Garret ► 
Fitzgerald will return to the world of human life again to / 
lead the Irish hosts to victory.^ * 

In Scotland 

Dr. Alexander Carmichael, author of Carmina Gadelica, who 
as a folk-lorist has examined modern peasant beliefs through- 
out the Highlands and Islands more thoroughly than any other 
living Scotsman, informs me that apparently there was at one 
time in the Highlands a definite belief in the ancient Celtic Re- 
birth Doctrine, because he has found traces of it there, though 
these traces were only in the vaguest and barest outline. 

Christian Saint, Columba, overran the north-west of Europe, as perhaps 
truer than I had imagined.' — Ireland : Her Story, pp. 211-12. 

* Cf. M. Lenihan, Limerick ; its History and Antiquities (Dublin, 1866), 
p. 725. 


In the Isle of Man 

Mr. William Cashen, keeper of Peel Castle, reported as 
follows with respect to a re-birth doctrine in the Isle of Man : 
— ' Here in the Island among old Manx people I have heard 
it said, but only in a joking way, that we will come back to 
this earth again after some thousands of years. The idea 
wasn't very popular nor often discussed, and there is no 
belief in it now to my knowledge. It seems to have come 
down from the Druids.' 

This is Mr. WiUiam Oates* testimony, given at Balla- 
salla : — ' Some held a belief in the coming back (re-birth) of 
spirits. I can't explain it. A certain Manxman I knew used 
to talk about the transmigration of spirits ; but I shall not give 
his name, since many of his family still live here on the Island.' 

Mr. Thomas Kelley, of Glen Meay, had no clear idea about 
the ancient Celtic Doctrine of Re-birth, though he said : — 

* My grandfather had a notion that he would be back here 
again at the Resurrection to claim his land.' This undoubt- 
edly shows how the Christian doctrine of the Resurrection 
and the Celtic one of Re-birth may have blended, both being 
based on the common idea of a physical post-existence. 

In Wales 

In the Pentre Evan country where I discovered such rich 
folk-lore, I found my chief witness from there not unfamiliar 
with the ancient Celtic belief in Re-birth. One day I asked 
her if she had ever heard the old folk say that they had 
lived before on this earth as men and women. Somewhat 
surprised at the question, for to answer it would reveal half- 
secret thoughts of which, as it proved, not even her own 
nephew or niece had knowledge, she hesitated a moment, 
and, then, looking at me intently, said with great earnest- 
ness, ' Yes ; and I often believe myself that I have lived 
before.' And because of the unusual question, which seemed 
to reveal on my part familiarity with the belief, she added, 

* And I think you must be of the same opinion as to yourself.' 
She explained then that the belief was a rare one now, and 

c c 2 


held by only a few of the oldest of her old acquaintances in 
that region, and they seldom talk about it to their children 
for fear of being laughed at. 

Mr. J. Ceredig Davies, the well-known folk-lorist of 
Llanilar, near Aberystwyth, speaking of the Welsh Re-birth 
Doctrine, said he remembers, while in Patagonia, having 
discussed Druidism with a friend there, the late John Jones, 
originally of Bala, North Wales, and hearing him remark, 
' Indeed, I have a half-belief that I have been in this world 

Mr. Jones, our witness from Pontrhydfendigaid, offers 
testimony of the highest value concerning Druidism and 
the doctrine of re-birth in Central Wales, as follows : — 
* Taliessin believed in re-birth, and he was the first to inter- 
pret the Druidic laws. He believed that from age to age 
he had been in many human bodies. He believed that he 
possessed the same soul as Enoch and Eli, that he had been 
a judge sitting on the case of Jesus Christ — " I was a judge 
at the Crucifixion," he is reported as saying — and that he 
had been a prisoner in bonds at the Court of Cynfelyn, not 
far from Aberystwyth, for a year and a day. Two hundred 
years ago, belief in re-birth was common. Many still held 
it when I was a boy. And even yet here in this region some 
people are imbued with the ancient faith of the Druids, and 
firmly believe that the spirit migrates from one body to 
another. It is said, too, that a pregnant woman is able to 
determine what kind of a child she will give birth to.' ^ 

Mr. Jones's use of the phrase * migrate from one body to 
another ' led us to suspect that it might refer to transmigra- 
tion, i. e. re-birth into animal bodies, which Dr. Tylor in 

* I take this to mean, somewhat as in the similar case of Dechtire, the 
mother of Cuchulainn (see p. 369, above), that the kind of soul or character 
which will be reincarnated in the child is determined by the psychic pre- 
natal conditions which a mother consciously or unconsciously may set 
up. If this interpretation, as it seems to be, is correct, we have in this 
Welsh belief a surprising comprehension of scientific laws on the part of 
the ancient Welsh Druids — from whom the doctrine comes — which equals, 
and surpasses in its subtlety, the latest discoveries of our own psychological 
embryology, criminology, and so-called laws of heredity. 


Primitive Culture^ (ii. 6-11, 17, &c.) shows is a distorted or 
corrupted interpretation of what he calls the reasonable and 
straightforward doctrine of re-birth into human bodies 
only. But when we questioned Mr. Jones further about the 
matter he said : — ' The belief I refer to is re-birth into 
human bodies. I have heard of witches being able to change 
their own body into the body of an animal or demon, but 
I never heard of men transmigrating into the bodies of 
animals. Some people have said that the Druids taught 
transmigration of this sort, but I do not think they did — 
though Welsh poets seem to have made use of such a 
doctrine for the sake of poetry.' 

In order to gain evidence concerning the Re-birth Doctrine 
as concrete as possible from so important a witness as 
Mr. Jones, we asked him further if he could recall the names 
of one or two of his old acquaintances who believed in it; 
and he said : — ' One old character named Thomas Williams^ 
a dyer by trade, nearly believed in it, and Shon Evan Rolant 
firmly believed in it. Rolant was the owner of Old Abbey 
Farm on the Cross-Wood Estate, and originally was a well- 
to-do and respectable farmer, but in consequence of mort- 
gages on the estate he lost his property. After being dis- 
possessed and badly treated, he used to recite the one 
hundred and ninth Psalm, to bring curses upon those who 
worked against him in the dispossession process ; and it 
was thought that he succeeded in bringing curses upon 

The Rev. T. M. Morgan, Vicar of Newchurch parish, near 
Carmarthen, who has already offered valuable evidence con- 
cerning the Tylwyth Teg (see pp. 149-51) , contributes additional 
material about the Doctrine of Re-birth in South Wales : — 
' My father said there used to be expressed in Cardiganshire 
before his time, a belief in re-birth. This was in accord with - 
Druidism, namely, that all human beings formerly existed - 
on the moon, the world of middle light, and the queen of • 
heaven ; that those who there lived a righteous life were - 
thence born on the sun, and thence onward to the highest - 
heaven ; and that those whose moon life had been unrighteous 



were born on this earth of suffering and sin. Through right- 
living on earth souls are able to return to the moon, and then 
evolve to the sun and highest heaven ; or, through wrong 
living on earth, souls are born in the third condition, which 
is one of utter darkness and of still greater suffering and * 
sin than our world offers. But even from this lowest con- f 
dition souls can work upwards to the highest glory if they 
strive successfully against evil. The Goddess of Heaven or 
Mother of all human beings was known as Brenhines-y-nef. * 
I am unable to tell if she is the moon itself or lived in the • 
moon. On the other hand, the sun was considered the father 
of all human beings. According to the old belief, every new ' 
moon brings the souls who were unfit to be born on the sun, ' 
to deposit them here on our earth. Sometimes there are' 
more souls seeking embodiment on earth than there are 
infant bodies to contain them. Hence souls fight among ^ 
themselves to occupy a body. Occasionally one soul tries ' 
to drive out from a body the soul already in possession of it, ' 
in order to possess it for itself. In consequence of such' 
struggling of soul against soul, men in this world manifest « 
madness and tear themselves. Whenever such a condition ' 
showed itself, the person exhibiting it was called a Lloerig 
or "one who is moon-torn" — Lloer meaning moon, and/^ 
rhigo to notch or tear ; and in the English word lunatic, ♦ 
meaning " moon-struck ", we have a similar idea.' ^ *^ 

Mr. David Williams, J.P., of Carmarthen, who has already 
told us much about Welsh fairies (see pp. 151-3), offers 
equally valuable information about the ' Three Circles of 
Existence ' and the Druidic scheme of soul-evolution, as 
follows : — ' According to the Druids, there are three Circles 
through which souls must pass. The first is Cylch y Ceugant, 
the second Cylch Abred, the third Cylch y Gwynfyd. The 
name of each circle refers to a special kind of spiritual train- 
ing, and if in reaching the second circle you do not gain its 
perfection by completing all its provisions [probably in due 

* The reader is referred to the Rev. T. M. Morgan's latest publication, 
The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Newchurch, Carmarthenshire 
Carmarthen, 1910), pp. 155-6. 


order and time], you must begin again in Circle One ; but if 
you reach the perfection of Circle Two you go on to Circle 
Three. In Circle One, which is unlocated, the soul has no 
condition of bodily existence as in Circle Two. The second 
Circle appears to be a state something like the one we are 
in now — a mixture of good and evil. The third Circle is 
a state of perfection and blessedness. In it the soul's 
environments correspond to all its wishes and desires, and 
there is contact with God.' At this point I asked if there 
was loss of individuality in Circle Three, and Mr. Williams . 
replied : — ' No, there is not loss of individuality.' Hence, > 
as we suggest, Cylch y Gwynfyd is the Druidic parallel to ^ 
the Nirvana of Indian metaphysics — being like it, a state - 
of perfect and unlimited self-consciousness which man never 
knows in earth-life. And, finally, Mr. Williams said in 
relation to re-birth : — * About the years 1780-1820 there 
lived an old bard in Glamorganshire who was actually 
a Druid, though he professed to be a Christian as well, and 
he believed fully in re-birth. His common name was Edward 
Williams (lolo Morganwg) ; and he [with Owen Jones and 
William O. Pughe] edited the famous Archaiology of Wales.* 

In Cornwall 

Mr. Henry Maddern, F.I.A.S., our very important wit- 
ness from Penzance, testifies as follows concerning a re-birth 
doctrine in Cornwall : — ' Belief in reincarnation was very 
common among the old Cornish peoples. For example, it 
was believed when an incantation had been pronounced in 
the proper way at the Newly n Tolcarne, that the Troll who 
inhabited it could embody the person who called him up • 
in any state in which that person had existed during a 
former age. You had only to name the age or period, and - 
you could live your past life therein over again. My nurse, « 
Betty Grancan, and an old miner named William Edwards, 
both believed in re-birth, and told me about it. I have 
heard them relate stories to one another to the effect that 
a person can go back into the memory of past lives. They 
said that the sex always remains the same from life to life. 


I have never heard of any beUef in transmigration of humans 
into animals, but in human re-birth only/ ^ 

In Brittany 

In chapter ii, p, 216, M. Z. Le Rouzic, keeper of the 
Miln Museum at Carnac, says that there is now among his 
Breton countrymen round Carnac a general and profound 
belief that spirits incarnate as men and women ; and he has 
told me that this belief exists also in other regions of the 
Morbihan. And I myself found there in this Carnac country 
of which M. Le Rouzic speaks, that the doctrine of the 
reincarnation of ancestors, which, as he agrees, is the same 
thing as the incarnation of spirits, is quite common, though 
as a rule only talked about among the Bretons themselves. 

M. Le Rouzic restated the belief as he knows it round 
Carnac, as follows : — * It is incontestable that the belief in 
the reincarnation of spirits is general in our country ; and it 
is believed that the spirits embodied now are the spirits of 
the people of former times.* 

After Louis Guezel, of the village of St. Columban, a mile 
from Carnac, had related to me certain legends of the dead, 
I asked him if he had ever heard that the dead may be born 
again as men and women here on this earth. Contrary to 
my expectations, the question caused no surprise whatever ; 
and I was at once given the impression that the ancient 
Celtic Doctrine of Re-birth is a thoroughly familiar one to 
him and to many Bretons about the Carnac district. As we 
conversed about the doctrine, he said emphatically, * C'est 
la verite ' (It is the truth) ; and in illustration told the 
following anecdotes : — ' A woman in a cemetery one evening 
saw the spirits of many dead children begging of her life, and 
reincarnation. A son of my son resembles my grandfather, 
especially in his mental traits and general character, and the 
family believe that this son is my grandfather reincarnated.* 
(Recorded at St. Columban, Brittany, August 1909.) 

* I found, however, that the original re-birth doctrine has been either 
misinterpreted or else corrupted — after Dr. Tylor's theory — into trans- 
migration into animal bodies among certain Cornish miners in the St. Just 


Professor Anatole Le Braz, in a letter-preface to Carnac, 
Legendes, Traditions, Coutumes et Conies du Pays (Nantes, 
1909), by M. Z. Le Rouzic, makes this poetical reference 
to his friend, its author, and thereby admirably echoes the 
ancient Breton Doctrine of Re-birth : — ' You, your eyes, 
your ears are elsewhere : you are a seer and a hearer of the 
lower regions ; you perceive the floating images and you 
discern the hollow sounds of the people of the manes ; 
you live, literally, among them. What am I saying ? Under 
the form and appearance of a man of to-day, you are in 
reality one of them, ascended to the day and reincarnated.' 
Again, speaking of the Alignements of Menec, Professor Le 
Braz adds concerning his friend : — ' You have been one of 
the priest-builders who worked at its erection ; you have 
officiated among its myriads of columns, presided amid the 
pomp of great funerals in its cyclopean caverns, sprinkled its 
sepulchral mounds, shaped like tents, with the blood of oxen 
and of heifers now dear to St. Cornely. And this also you 
confess to me yourself : these unfathomable epochs remain 
for you actual and present.' 

Origin and Evolution of the Celtic Doctrine 

OF Re-birth 

In considering briefly what non-Celtic doctrines could 
conceivably have shaped the Celtic Doctrine of Re-birth, two 
chief streams of influence are open to examination. One 
stream has its source in re-birth doctrines like those set forth » 
by Orphic, Pythagorean, Platonic, and similar orientally- 
derived philosophies ; while the other arises out of primitive » 
Christianity, wherein, as literary and historical evidence r 
suggests, re-birth may have been an equally important ' 
doctrine ; or, at all events, there was a decided tendency, ^ 
later condemned as heretical, to synthesize the Alexandrian ^ 
philosophy and the Jewish (which to some extent influ- 
enced the Alexandrian) with early Church doctrines. This 
tendency is clearly shown by Origen, and by Clemens 
Alexandrinus, another eminent Father. 

We have a better check on the second stream than on the 


first, because Christianity has a later and more definite 
origin than any of the orientally-derived philosophies. 
Some of the Druids, chiefly of Scotland and Wales, who are 
known to have held the re-birth doctrine before conversion, 
and probably after conversion, as was the case with a modern 
Druid, an editor of the Archaiology of Wales (see p. 391, 
above), accepted the New Faith as a purer form of 
Druidism and Jesus Christ as the Greatest of Druids. This 
ready and full acceptance would most likely not have been 
possible had their cardinal re-birth doctrine been thereby 
condemned. It would seem, therefore, that a primitive -. 
Christian re-birth doctrine may have been openly held by ' 
certain of the early Celtic missionaries. These latter, during ' 
the centuries when Ireland was the university for all Europe, 
had good opportunities for knowing much about the earliest . 
traditions of Christianity, and they, with their own half- 
pagan instincts, would have given approval to such a doc- * 
trine without consulting Rome, just as Church Fathers like ^ 
TertuUian condemned it on their own personal authority and 
Origen believed it. Further, if we hold in mind that the 
doctrine of the Incarnation even now inculcates that the Son * 
pre-existed and united Himself with a human soul in the * 
act of conception, and that it may originally and by some 
Irish saints have been thought of as applying to all mankind * 
in a more humble and less divine way, we seem to see in the 
Mongan re-birth story, which Christian transcribers have 
glossed, evidently with such ideas in mind, a proof that on this 
doctrinal point Christian and Celtic beliefs coalesced.^ But 

^ The primitive character of the Incarnation doctrine is clear : Origen, 
in refuting a Jewish accusation against Christians, apparently the natural 
outgrowth of deep-seated hatred and religious prejudice on the part of the 
Jews, that Jesus Christ was born through the adultery of the Virgin with 
a certain soldier named Panthera, argues ' that every soul, for certain 
mysterious reasons (I speak now according to the opinions of Pythagoras, 
and Plato, and Empedocles, whom Celsus frequently names), is intro- 
duced into a body, and introduced according to its deserts and former 
actions '. And, according to Origen 's argument, to assign to Jesus Christ 
a birth more disgraceful than any other is absurd, because ' He who sends 
souls down into the bodies of men ' would not have thus ' degraded Him 
who was to dare such mighty acts, and to teach so many men, and to 
reform so many from the mass of wickedness in the world '. And Origen 


the Christian beHefs did not originate the Celtic, for scholars 
have shown that the germ of the Mongan re-birth story, as 
well as that of the Cuchulainn re-birth episode, is pre-Chris- 
tian, and that the Etain birth-story dates from a time when 
Irish myth and history were entirely free from Christian 
influence.^ The same original pagan character is shown in 
the re-birth episodes existing in Brythonic literature.^ 
And, finally, from the testimony of several ancient authori- 
ties, e.g. Julius Caesar, Diodorus Siculus, Pomponius Mela, 
and Lucan, who wrote, respectively, about 50 B.C., 40 B.C., 
A. D. 44, and A. D. 60 to 65, that the Celts already held the 
re-birth doctrine, it is certain that any possible influence 
from the Christian stream instead of originating the Celtic 
Doctrine of Re-birth could merely have modified it. 

The question remaining. Would the classical or oriental 
doctrines of re-birth have originated or fundamentally 
shaped the Celtic re-birth doctrine ? is a very difficult one. 
At present it cannot be answered with certainty either 
negatively or positively. We may suppose, however, as we 
did in the case of the parallel Christian re-birth doctrine, 
a possible contact and amalgamation, brought about in 
various ways, e.g. through Oriental merchants like the 
Phoenicians, and travellers who visited Britain in pre- 
Christian times, but chiefly through the continental Celts, 
who had direct knowledge of Greek and Roman culture, 
meeting their insular brethren beyond the Channel and 

adds : — ' It is probable, therefore, that this soul also which conferred more 
benefit by its residence in the flesh than that of many men (to avoid pre- 
judice, I do not say "all "), stood in need of a body not only superior to 
others, but invested with all excellence ' (Origen against Celsus, Book I, 
c. xxxii). 

It is interesting to compare with Origen's theology the following passage 
from the Pistis Sophia, wherein Jesus in the alleged esoteric discourse to 
his disciples refers to the pre-existence of their souls : — ' I took them 
from the hands of the twelve saviours of the treasure of light, according 
to the command of the first mystery. These powers, therefore, I cast into 
the wombs of your mothers, when I came into the world, and they are 
those which are in your bodies this day' {Pistis Sophia, i. ii. Mead's 

* Cf. Nutt, Voy. of Bran, ii. 27 ff., 45 ff., 54 fif., 98-102. 

' Cf. ib., p. 105. 


Irish Sea. All such ancient contacts push the problem 
further and further back in time ; and our easiest and safest 
course is to state — as we may of the similar problem of the 
origin of the Celtic Otherworld belief — that available facts 
of comparative religion, philosophy, and myth, indicate 
clearly a prehistoric epoch when there was a common 
ancestral stock for the Mediterranean and pan-Celtic 
cultures. This may have had its beginnings in the 
Danube country, or in North Europe, as many authorities 
in ethnology now hold, or, as others are beginning to hold, 
in the lost Atlantis — the most probable home of the dark 
pre-Celtic peoples of Ireland, Isle of Man, Scotland, Britain, 
Southern and Western Europe, and North Africa, who with 
the Aryans are the joint ancestors of the modern Celts. 
Both branches of this common Celtic ancestral stock held 
the re-birth doctrine. And at least from their Aryan 
ancestors it seems to have been inherited by the Celts of 
history. To attempt a hypothetical proof that this race 
or that race, Egyptian, Phoenician, Greek, or Celtic, as 
the case may be, is alone the originator of this or any other 
particular belief is as useless and as absurd as to attempt 
proof that the Gael has no racial affinity with the Brython. 
One of the greatest services now being performed by 
scientific inquiry into human problems is the demonstra- 
tion of the unreasonableness of assuming artificial social 
barriers separating race from race, religion from religion, 
and institution from institution, and the declaration that 
the unity and the brotherhood of man is a fact inherent in 
man's own nature, and not a sentimental ideal. But there 
is specialization and differentiation everywhere in nature ; 
and while Celtic traditions and beliefs are not fundament- 
ally unlike those found in every age, race, and cultural 
stage, the treatment of this common stock of prehistoric 
lore and mystical religion is in some respects unique, and 
hence Celtic. Beyond this statement we cannot go. 




' As he spoke, he paused before a great mound grown over with trees, 
and around it silver clear in the moonlight were immense stones piled, the 
remains of an original circle, and there was a dark, low, narrow entrance 
leading therein. " This was my palace. In days past many a one plucked 
here the purple flower of magic and the fruit of the tree of life ..." And 
even as he spoke, a light began to glow and to pervade the cave, and to 
obliterate the stone walls and the antique hieroglyphics engraven thereon, 
and to melt the earthen floor into itself like a fiery sun suddenly uprisen 
within the world, and there was ever5rwhere a wandering ecstasy of sound : 
light and sound were one ; light had a voice, and the music hung glittering 
in the air . . . "I am Aengus ; men call me the Young. I am the 
sunlight in the heart, the moonlight in the mind ; I am the light at 
the end of every dream, the voice for ever calling to come away ; I am 
desire beyond joy or tears. Come with me, come with me : I will make 
you immortal ; for my palace opens into the Gardens of the Sun, and there 
are the fire-fountains which quench the heart's desire in rapture." ' — A. E. 

Inadequacy of Pygmy Theory — According to the theories concerning divine 
images and fetishes, gods, daemons, and ancestral spirits haunt megaliths 
— Megaliths are religious and funereal, as shown chiefly by Cenn Cruaich, 
Stonehenge, Guernsey menhirs, monuments in Brittany, by the circular 
fairy dance as an ancient initiatory sun-dance, by Breton earthworks, 
archaeological excavations generally, and by present-day worship at 
Indian dolmens — New Grange and Celtic Mysteries : evidence of 
manuscripts ; evidence of tradition — The Aengus Cult — New Grange 
compared with Great Pyramid : both have astronomical arrangement 
and same internal plan — Why they open to the sunrise — Initiations in 
both — Great Pyramid as model for Celtic tumuli — Gavxinis and New 
Grange as spirit-temples. 

In this chapter we propose to deal with the popular belief 
among Celtic peoples that tumuli, dolmens, menhirs, and 
in fact most megalithic monuments, prehistoric or historic, 

* In this chapter, largely the result of my own special research and 
observations in Celtic archaeology, I wish to acknowledge the very 
valuable suggestions offered to me by Professor J. Loth, both in his 
lectures and personally. 


are either the abodes or else the favourite haunts of various 
orders of fairies — of pixies in Cornwall, of corrigans in 
Brittany, of little spirits like pygmies, of spirits like mortals 
in stature, of goblins, of demons, and of ghosts. Interesting 
attempts have been made to explain this folk-belief by means 
of the Pygmy Theory of Fairies ; and this folk-belief appears 
to be almost the chief one upon which the theory depends.^ 
As was pointed out in the Introduction (p. xxiii), possibly 
one of the many threads interwoven into the complex fabric 
of the Fairy-Faith round an original psychical pattern may 
have been bequeathed by a folk-memory of some unknown, 
perhaps pygmy, races, who may have inhabited underground 
places like those in certain tumuli. But even though the 
Pygmy Theory were altogether accepted by us the problem 
we are to consider would still be an unsolved one ; for how 
explain by the Pygmy Theory why the folk-memory should 
always run in psychical channels, and not alone in Celtic 
lands, but throughout Europe, and even in Australia, 
America, Africa, and India. 

Archaeological researches have now made it clear that 
many of the great tumuli covering dolmens or subterranean 
chambers, like that of Mont St. Michel (at Carnac) for 
example, were religious and funereal in their purposes from 
the first ; and therefore the Pygmy Theory is far from a 
satisfactory or adequate explanation. To us the inquiry is 
similar to an investigation into the reasons why ghosts 
should haunt a house, whereas the supporters of the Pygmy 
Theory forget the ghosts and teU all about the people who 
may or who may never have lived in the haunted house, and 
who built it. The megaliths, in the plain language of the 
folk-belief, are haunted by fairies, pixies, 'corrigans, ghosts, 
and various sorts of invisible beings. Like the Psychical ' 
Research Society, we believe there may be, or actually are, 
invisible beings like ghosts, and so propose to conduct our 
investigations from that point of view.^ 

* See David MacRitchie, Fians, Fairies, and Picts ; also his Testimony 
of Tradition. 

* Myers, in the Survival of the Human Personality {ii. 55-6), shows that ' the 


Menhirs, Dolmens, Cromlechs, and Tumuli 

To begin with, we shall concern ourselves with menhirs, 
dolmens, cromlechs, and certain kinds of tumuli — such as 
are found at Carnac, round which corrigans hold their 
nightly revels, and where ghost-like forms are sometimes 
seen in the moonlight, or even when there is no moon. 
M. Paul Sebillot in Le Folk-lore de France ^ has very 
adequately described the numerous folk-traditions and cus- 
toms connected with all such monuments, and it remains 
for us to deal especially with the psychical aspects of these 
traditions and customs. 

The learned Canon Mahe in his Essai sur les antiquites du 
departement du Morhihan (p. 258), a work of rare merit, pub- 
lished at Vannes in 1825, holds that not only were the 
majestic Alignements of Carnac used as temples for religious » 
rites, but that the stones themselves of which the Aligne- > 
ments are formed were venerated as the abodes of gods.^ , 

departed spirit, long after death, seems pre-occupied with the spot where 
his bones are laid '. Among contemporary uncultured races there exists 
a theory parallel to this one arrived at through careful scientific research, 
namely, that ghosts haunt graves and monuments connected with the 
dead : according to the Australian Arunta the ' double ' hovers near its 
body until the body is reduced to dust, the spirit or soul of the deceased 
having separated from this ' double ' or ghost at the time of death or 
soon afterwards (Spenser and Gillen, Nat. Tribes of Cent. Aust.). 

^ See Les Grottes, t. i ; Les Menhirs, Les Dolmens, Les Tumulus, and 
Cultes et observances megalithiques, t. iv. 

* On April 17, 1909, at Carnac, in a natural fissure in the body of the 
finest menhir at the head of the Alignement of Kermario, I found quite 
by chance, while making a very careful examination of the geological 
structure of the menhir, a Roman Catholic coin (or medal) of St. Peter. 
The place in the menhir where this coin was discovered is on the south 
side about fifteen inches above the surface of the ground. The menhir 
is very tall and smoothly rounded, and there is no possible way for the coin 
to have fallen into the fissure by accident. Nor is there any probability 
that the coin was placed there without a serious purpose ; and it is an object 
such as only an adult would possess. An examination of the link remaining 
on the coin, which no doubt formerly connected it with a necklace or string 
of prayer-beads, shows that it has been purposely opened so as to free it at 
the time it was deposited in the stone. Had the coin been accidentally 
torn away from a chain or string of prayer-beads the link would have 
presented a different sort of opening. But it would be altogether unreason- 
able to suppose that by any sort of chance the coin could have reached the 


And quoting Porphyry, lamblichus, Proclus, Hermes, and 
others, he shows that the ancients beheved that gods and 
daemons, attracted by sacrifice and worship to stone images 
and other inanimate objects, overshadowed them or even 
took up their abode in them. This position of Canon Mahe 
is confirmed by a comparative study of Celtic and non- 
Celtic traditions respecting the theory of what has been 
erroneously called * idol- worship '. All evidence goes to 
show that idols so called, are simply images used as media 
for the manifestation of ghosts, spirits, and gods : the 
ancients, like contemporary primitive races, do not seem 
ever to have actually worshipped such images, but simply 
to have supplicated by prayer and sacrifice the indwelling 
deity .^ The ancient Egyptians, for example, conceived the 
Ka or personality as a thing separable from the person or 
body, and hence * the statue of a human being represented 
and embodied a human Ka \ Likewise a statue of a god 
was the dwelling-place of a divine Ka, attracted to it by 
certain mystical formulae at the time of dedication.^ Though 
there might be many statues of the same god no two were 
ahke ; each was animated by an independent * double ' 
which the rites of consecration had elicited from the god. 
These statues, being thus animated by a * double ', mani- 
fested their will — as Greek and Roman statues are reported 
to have done — either by speaking, or by rhythmic move- 
ments. The divine virtue residing in the images of the gods 
was thought to be a sort of fluid, analogous to what we call 
the magnetic fluid, the aura, &c. It could be transmitted 

place where I found it. I showed the coin to M. Z. Le Rouzic, of the Carnac 
Museum, and he considers it, as I do, as evidence or proof of a cult rendered 
to stones here in Brittany. The coin must have been secretly placed in 
the menhir by some pious peasant as a direct ex voto for some favour 
received or demanded. The coin is somewhat discoloured, and has probably 
been some years in the stone, though it cannot be very old. And the ofifering 
of a coin to the spirit residing in a menhir is parallel to throwing coins, pins, 
or other objects into sacred fountains, which, as we know, is an undisputed 

* Cf. A. C. Kruijt, Het Animisme in den Indischen Archipel ; quoted 
in Crawley's Idea of the Soul, p. 133. 

* Cf. Weidemann, Ancient Egyptian Doct. Immortality, p. 21. 


by the imposition of hands and by magic passes, on the nape . 
of the neck or along the dorsal spine of a patient ; ^ and * 
no doubt extraordinary curative properties were attributed 
to it. 

Dr. Tylor has brought together examples from all parts 
of the globe of so-called fetishism, which is veneration paid 
to natural living objects such as trees, fish, animals, as well 
as to inanimate objects of almost every conceivable descrip- 
tion, including stones, because of the spirit believed to be 
inherent or resident in the particular object ; and he shows 
that idols originally were fetishes, which in time came to be 
shaped according to the form of the spirit or god supposed 
to possess them.2 Mr. R. R. Marett, the originator of the 
pre-animistic theory, believes that originally fetishes were 
regarded as gods themselves, and that gradually they came ' 
to be regarded as the dwellings of gods.^ Certain well- 
defined Celtic traditions entirely fit in with this theory : — 
e. g. Canon Mahe writes, * In accordance with this strange 
theory they (the Celts) could believe that rocks, set in motion 
by spirits which animated them, sometimes went to drink at 
rivers, as is said of the Peulvan at Noyal-Pontivy ' (Mor- 
bihan);^ and I have found a parallel belief at RoUright, 
Oxfordshire, England, where it is said of the King Stone, an 
ancient menhir, and, according to some folk- traditions, 
a human being transformed, that it goes down the hill on 
Christmas Eve to drink at the river. In the famous menhir 
or pillar-stone on Tara to this day, we have another curious 
example like the moving statues in Egypt and the Celtic . 
stones which move ; for in the Book o/Lismore the wonderful ' 
properties of the Lia Fail, the * Stone of Destiny *, are 
enumerated, and it is said that ever when Ireland's monarch 
stepped upon it the stone would cry out under him, but 
that if any other person stepped upon it, there was only 

^ Cf. Mahe, Essai. * Tylor, Prim. Cult.,* ii. 143 ff., 169, 172. 

' Marett, The Threshold of Religion, c. i. • Mahe, Essai, p. 230. 

* A famous controversy exists as to whether the Coronation Stone now in 
Westminster Abbey is the Lia Fail, or whether the pillar-stone still at Tara 
is the Lia Fail. See article by E. S. Hartland in Folk-Lore, xiv. 28-60. 



In the Tripartite Life of St. Patrick it is said that Ireland's 
chief idol was at Mag Slecht, and by name * Cenn Cruaich, 
covered with gold and silver, and twelve other idols ^ [were] 
about it, covered with brass '. When Patrick tried to place 
his crosier on the top of Cenn Cruaich, the idol ' bowed west- 
ward to turn on its right side, for its face was from the 
South, to wit, Tara. . . . And the earth swallowed the twelve 
other images as far as their heads, and they are thus in sign 
of the miracle, and he cursed the demon, and banished him 
to hell \^ Sir John Rhys points out that Cenn Cruaich 
means * Head or Chief of the Mound ', and that the story of 
its inclined position suggests to us an ancient and gradually 
falling menhir planted on the summit of a tumulus or hill 
surrounded by twelve lesser pillar stones, all thirteen — 
itself a sacred number — regarded as the abodes of gods or 
else as gods themselves ; and these gods are referred to as the 
demon exorcized from the place by Patrick. The central 
menhir or Cenn Cruaich probably represents the Solar God, 
and the twelve menhirs surrounding this probably represent 
the twelve months of the year.^ In the Colloquy it is said 
that Patrick went his way * to sow faith and piety, to banish 
devils and wizards out of Ireland ; to raise up saints and 
righteous, to erect crosses, station-stones, and altars ; also 
to overthrow idols and goblin images, and the whole art of 
sorcery *.* Welsh tradition says that St. David split the 
capstone of the Maen Ketti Cromlech (dolmen) ^ in Gower, 

^ These 'idols ' probably were not true images, but simply unshaped 
stone pillars planted on end in the earth ; and ought, therefore, more 
properly to be designated fetishes. 

* Stokes, in Rev. Celt., i. 260 ; Rhys, Hih. Led., pp. 200-1. 

' Very much first-class evidence suggests that the menhir was regarded 
by the primitive Celts both as an abode of a god or as a seat of divine 
power, and as a phallic symbol (cf. Jubainville, Le culte des menhirs dans 
le monde celtique, in Rev. Celt., xxvii. 313). As a phallic symbol, the menhir 
must have been inseparably related to a Celtic sun-cult ; because" among 
all ancient peoples ^where phallic worship has prevailed, the sun has been 
venerated as the supreme masculine force in external nature from which 
all life proceeds, while the phallus has been venerated as the corresponding 
force in human nature. * Silva Gadelica, ii. 137. 

® Professor J. Loth says : — ' Etymologiquement, le mot est compose de crom, 
courbe, arque, formant creux, convexe, at de llech, pierre plate ' {Rev. Celt., 


in order to prove to the people that there was nothing 
divine in it.^ 

According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, MerUn constructed 
Stonehenge by magically transporting from Ireland the 
' Choir of the Giants ', apparently an ancient Irish circle of 
stones.2 The rational explanation of this myth seems to be 
that the stones of Stonehenge, not belonging to the native 
rocks of South England, as geologists well know, were prob- 
ably transported from some distant part of Britain and set 
up on Salisbury Plain, because of some magical properties 
supposed to have been possessed by them ; and most likely 
* the stones were regarded as divine or as seats of divine f 
power '.^ And further (thereby admitting the sacred purpose 
of the group), Sir John Rhys sees no objection to identifying 
Stonehenge with the famous temple of Apollo in the island • 
of the Hyperboreans, referred to in the journal of Pytheas' • 
travels.* According to Sir John Rhys's interpretation of 
this journal, * the kings of the city containing the temple 
and the overseers of the latter were the Boreads, who took 
up the government in succession, according to their tribes. 
The citizens gave themselves up to music, harping and chant- 
ing in honour of the Sun-god, who was every nineteenth year 
wont himself to appear about the time of the vernal equinox, 
and to go on harping and dancing in the sky until the rising 
of the Pleiades.' * 

Two menhirs, roughly hewn to simulate the human form, 
are yet to be found in Guernsey, Channel Islands, and 
formerly there was a similar menhir in the Breton village of 
Baud, Morbihan. One of the Guernsey figures was dug up 
in 1878 under the chancel of the Catel Church, and then 
placed in the churchyard, so that in this instance it seems 

XV. 223, Dolmen, Leach-Derch, Peulvan, Menhir, Cromlech). In Cornwall, 
Wales, and Ireland, instead of the peculiarly Breton word dolmen (composed 
of dol [for tol=tavl], meaning table, and of men [Middle Breton maen], 
meaning stone) the word cromlech is used. Cromlech is the Welsh equiva- 
lent for the Breton dolmen, but Breton archaeologists use cromlech to 
describe a circle formed by menhirs. 
^ Rhys, Hib. Led., pp. 193-4. 

* lb., p. 192 ; from Sans-Marte's edition, pp. 108-9, 361. " lb., p. 193. 

* lb., pp. 194-5 j cf. Bibliotheca of Diodorus Siculus, ii. c. 47. 

D d 2 


highly probable that the Christian Church was built on the 
site of a sacred pagan shrine where a cult of stones once 
existed. The second stone figure (a female), now standing 
as a gate-post in the churchyard of St. Martin's parish, seems 
also to mark a spot where a pre-Christian sanctuary was ^ 
christianized. The country-people of the district, up to the ^ 
middle of the last century, considered it lucky to make * 
floral and even food offerings to this stone ; but in i860 the v 
churchwarden to destroy its sanctity had it broken in two, 
though now it has been restored.^ A like stone image was 
the famous * Venus de Quinipilly ', near Baud, Morbihan. /» 
At its base was a stone trough, wherein until late into the • 
seventeenth century the sick were cured by contact with ' 
the image, and young men and maidens were wont to bathe • 
to secure love and long life.^ ^ 

Canon Mahe recorded in 1825 that the folk-belief located 
ghosts and spirits of the dead round megalithic monuments, 
more especially those known to have been used for tombs, 
because the Celts thought them haunted by ancestral » 
spirits ; ^ and what was true in 1825 is true now, for there 
is still in Brittany the association of ancestral spirits,*- 
corrigans, and other spirit-like tribes with tumuli, dolmens,^ 
menhirs, and cromlechs, and, as we have shown in chapter ii, 
a very living faith in the Le'gende de la Mort. In describing 
some curious dolmens and cromlechs (stone circles) on the 
summit of a mountain called the Clech or Mane er kloch, 
* Mountain of the bell,' at Mendon, Arrondissement de 
Lorient, Morbihan, the same author gives it as his opinion, 
based on folk-traditions, that the cromlechs, like others in 
Brittany, were places in which the ancient Bretons practised . 
necromancy and invoked the spirits of their ancestors, to 
whom they attributed great power. He then records a very 
valuable and interesting tradition concerning these monu- 
ments, which seems to indicate clearly a close relationship 
between the Poulpiquets (another name for corrigans), 
thought of as spirits by the peasants, and the magical rites 

* Edith F. Carey, Channel Island Folklore (Guernsey, 1909). 
' Mahe, Essai, p. 198. 


conducted in the circles to invoke spirits or daemons : — * The 
people call the stones which are found there the rocks of 
the Hos^guaannets or Guerrionets (who are the same as the 
Poulpiquets) ; and they declare that at fixed seasons they 
are in the habit of coming there to celebrate their mysteries, 
which would prove that the race of these dwarfs is not yet 
extinct, as I believed.* ^ 

When we hear how corrigans dance the national Breton 
ronde or ridee, at or in such cromlechs (themselves, like the 
dance, circular in form), which with other ancient stone • 
monuments and earthworks are still believed to be the 
favourite haunts of these and kindred spirit-tribes, we seem 
to see, in the light of what Canon Mahe records, a psychical 
folk-memory about a gobUn race who are now thought of 
as frequenting the very places where anciently such spirits 
are said to have been invoked by pagan priests for the 
purposes of divination. Further, it appears that at these 
sacred centres, as the quoted tradition indicates, in pre- 
historic times Brythonic initiations took place, like those still 
flourishing among a few surviving American Indian tribes 
(who also dance the circular initiation dance), and among 
other primitive peoples, as we shall more adequately show 
in the chapter on St. Patrick's Purgatory. The Breton 
dance is, therefore, most likely the memorial of an ancient 
initiation dance, religious in character, and, probably, in 
honour of the sun, being circular in the same way that 
cromlechs dedicated to a sun-cult are circular. Stonehenge, 
the most highly developed type of the cromlech, was un- 
doubtedly a sun-temple ; and the dance anciently held in 
it, as described by Pytheas, in honour of the god Apollo, 
was no doubt circular like the Breton national dance, and, 
presumably, initiatory .^ Through a natural anthropo- 

* Mahe, Essai, pp. 287-9. 

* The place for holding a gorsedd for modern Welsh initiations, under 
the authority of which the Eisteddfod is conducted, must also be within 
a circle of stones, ' face to face with the sun and the eye of light, as there ^ 
is no power to hold a gorsedd under cover or at night, but only where and ♦ 
as long as the sun is visible in the heavens ' (Rhys, Hib. Lect., pp. 208-9 J ' 
from lolo MSS., p. 50). 


morphic process, this circular initiation dance has come to * 
be attributed to corrigans in Brittany, to pixies in Cornwall . 
and in England, and to fairies in these and other Celtic 
countries. The idea of fairy tribes in such a special relation 
may result from a folk-memory of the actual initiators • 
who, as masked men, represented spirits ; and, if this be - 
a plausible view, then fairies may be compared to the ^ 
initiators of contemporary initiation ceremonies among 
primitive peoples and, following Dr. Gilbert Murray's theory, / 
to the Greek satyrs also.^ ^ 

A circular dance like the Breton one still survives among 
the peasantry in the Channel Islands, at least in Guernsey, r 
Alderney, and Sark, being celebrated at weddings, but the 
revolution is now around a person instead of a stone, and* 
to this person obeisance is paid. This tends to confirm our r 
opinion that the dance is the survival of an ancient sun- • 
dance, the central figure being typical of the sun deity < 
himself, or Apollo ; and if we design this dance thus © , 
we have the astronomical emblem still used in all our calen- 
dars to represent the sun, one which in itself preserves 
a vast mass of forgotten lore. Formerly in Guernsey, the 
sites of principal dolmens (or cromlechs) and pillar-stones 
were visited in sacred procession, and round certain of them /» 
the whole body of pilgrims ' solemnly revolved three times • 
from east to west ' — as the sun moves.^ 

Again, according to Canon Mahe,^ the bases and lower 
parts of the sides of four singular barrows at Coet-bihan 
blend in such a way as to form an enclosed court, and one i 
of the barrows has been pierced as though for a passage- • 
way into this court. And he holds that it is more than 
probable that these ancient earthworks when first they were 
raised, and others like them in various Celtic lands, witnessed 
many mystic and religious rites and sacred tribal assem- t 
blies. The supposition that the Coet-bihan earthworks 

* Recently before the Oxford Anthropological Society, Dr. Murray argued , 
that the satyrs of Greek drama may originally have been masked initiators « 
in Greek initiations. (Cf. The Oxford Magazine, February 3, 1910, p. I73-) • 

* Edith F. Carey, op. cit. ^ Mahe, Essai, pp. 126-9. 


were originally dedicated to pagan religious usages is very 
much strengthened by the fact that in very early times a 1 
Christian chapel was erected near them.^ Mont St. Michel » 
at Carnac is another example of a pagan tumulus dedicated » 
to a Christian saint ; and, as Sir John Rhys says, the ' 
Archangel Michael appears in more places than one in Celtic 
lands as the supplanter of the dark powers.^ Not only 
were tumuli thus transferred by re-dedication from pagan 
gods to Christian saints, but dolmens and menhirs as well. 
Thus, for example, at Plouharnel-Carnac (Morbihan) there 
is a menhir surmounted by a Christian cross, just as at • 
Dol (Ille-et-Vilaine) a wooden crucifix surmounts the great 
menhir, and at Carnac there is a dolmen likewise christian- » 
ized by a stone cross-mounted on the table-stone. Again, - 
M. J. Dechelette in his Manuel d' Arche'ologie Prehistorique, 
Celtique et Gallo-Romaine (p. 380) describes a dolmen at 
Plouaret (Cotes-du-Nord) converted into a chapel dedicated 
to the Seven Saints, and another dolmen at Saint-Germain- 
de-Confolens (Charente) likewise transformed into a place of 
worship. Miss Edith F. Carey thus explains the dolmens 
in the Channel Islands : — ' All our old traditions prove our 
dolmens to have been the general rendezvous of our insular 
sorcerers. In sixteenth and seventeenth century manuscripts 
I have found these dolmens described as " altars of the gods » 
of the sea ". . . . One of our ancient dolmens retains its • 
ancient name of De Hus, and a fifteenth-century " Perchage " 
of Fief de Leree tells us that a now destroyed dolmen on 
our western coast was dedicated to the same god, for Heus # 
or Hesus was the War-God of ancient Gaul.' ^ The same ' 
writer describes excavations made at De Hus by Mr. Lukis, 
and that he found in a side chamber there two kneeling • 
skeletons, one facing the north, the other the south. He - 
considered them to have been of young persons probably 
interred alive as a funeral or propitiatory sacrifice to some > 
tribal chief, or else to a presiding deity of the dolmen. Be- * 
side a tomb of the early bronze age at the bottom of a large 

* Mahe, Essai, pp. 126-9. * Rhys, Arth. Leg., p. 339. 

' Edith F. Carey, op. cit. 


tumulus near Mammarlof, in Skdne, Dr. Oscar Montelius, 
the famous archaeologist of Sweden, discovered a circular . 
stone altar on which reposed charcoal and the remains of 
a burnt animal offering, which undoubtedly was made to 
the dead.i Schliemann made a parallel discovery in an/ 
ancient tomb at Mycenae, Greece.^ Curiously, in India 
to-day the Dravidian tribes, a pygmy-like aboriginal race, , 
worship at the ancient dolmens in their forests and moun- » 
tains, whether as at tombs and hence to ancestral spirits 
or to gods is not always clear ; but the latter form of worship 
is probably more common, since Mr. Walhouse once observed 
one of their medicine-men performing a propitiatory service 
to the agricultural or earth deities. The medicine-man 
passed the night in solitude sitting * on the capstone of 
a dolmen with heels and hams drawn together and chin on 
knee ' — evidently thus to await the advent of the Sun-god.^ 
All the above illustrations, mostly Celtic ones, tend to 
prove that menhirs, certain tumuli and earthworks, crom- 
lechs, and dolmens were originally connected with religious 
usages, chiefly with a cult of gods and fairy-like beings, 
and, though less commonly, with the dead. We pass now 
to a special consideration of chambered tumuli, to show 
that the same apparently holds true of them. 

* Montelius' Les Temps prJhtstoriques en Suede, par S. Reinach, p. 126. 
(Paris, 1895). 

* H. Schliemann, Mycenae (London, 1878), p. 213. 

' Walhouse, in Journ. Anthrop. Inst., vii. 21. These Dravidians are 
slightly taller than the pure Negritos, their probable ancestors ; and Indian 
tradition considers them to be the builders of the Indian dolmens, just as 
Celtic tradition considers fairies and corrigans (often described as dark or 
even black-skinned dwarfs) to be the builders of dolmens and megaliths 
among the Celts. Apparently, in such folk-traditions, which correctly 
or incorrectly regard fairies, corrigans, or Dravidians as the builders of 
ancient stone monuments, there has been preserved a folk-memory of early 
races of men who may have been Negritos (pygmy blacks). These races, 
through a natural anthropomorphic process, came to be identified with the 
spirits of the dead and with other spiritual beings to whom the monuments 
were dedicated and at which they were worshipped. Here, again, the 
Pygmy Theory is seen at its true relative value : it is subordinate to 
the fundamental animism of the Fairy-Faith. 


New Grange and Celtic Mysteries 

Though, as Professor J. Loth and other eminent archaeo- 
logists hold, all tumuli containing chambers, and all allees cou- . 
vertes of dolmens, should be considered as designedly funereal * 
in their purposes, nevertheless certain of the greater ones, like 
New Grange and Gavrinis may also properly be considered 
as places for rendering worship or even sacrifice to the dead, » 
and, perhaps, as places for religious pilgrimages and sacred ♦ 
rites. This, too, seems to be the opinion of M. J. Deche- 
lette in his work on Celtic and Gallo-Roman archaeology, 
as he traces from the earliest prehistoric times in Europe 
the evolution of the cult of the dead according to the evidence 
furnished by the ancient megalithic monuments.^ 

To begin with, let us take as a type for our study the most 
famous of all so-called Celtic tumuli, that of New Grange, on , 
the River Boyne in Ireland.^ In Irish literature New Grange • 
is constantly associated with the Tuatha De Danann as one ' 
of their palaces, as our fourth chapter points out. Throughout # 
our second section generally, the testimony indicates that the 
essential nature of these fairy-folk is subjective or spiritual. 
These two facts at the outset are very important and funda- 
mental, because we expect to show even more clearly than 
we have just done in the case of menhirs, dolmens, cromlechs, 
and smaller tumuli, that the folk-belief under consideration ^ 
is at bottom a psychical one, which has grown up out of » 
a folk-memory of the time when, as has just been said, Celtic 
or pre-Celtic tumuli were used for interments, and probably 
certain ones among them as places for the celebration of 
pagan mysteries. 

Mr. George Coffey, the eminent archaeologist in charge of 
the archaeological collections of the Royal Irish Academy, 
quotes from ancient Irish records in the Leahhar na h-Uidhre 
and other manuscripts to show that the early traditions 

* J. Dechelette, Manuel d'Archhlogie prehistorique (Paris, 1908), i. 468, 
302, 308, 311, 576, 610, &c. 

* This famous chambered tumulus ' measures nearly 700 feet in circum- 
ference, or about 225 feet in diameter, and between 40 and 50 feet in height ' 
(G. Coffey, in lil. Jr. Acad. Trans. [Dublin, 1892], xxx. 68). 


refer to the Boyne country as the burial-place of the kings 
of Tara, and that sometimes they seem to associate Brugh- 
na-Boyne with the tumuli on the Boyne,^ but, no exact 
identification being possible, it cannot be said with certainty 
whether any one of the three great Boyne tumuli is meant. 
Even though it could be shown conclusively that some 
mighty hero or king had actually been entombed in New 
Grange, as is likely, in the earth behind the chamber, under 
the chamber's floor, or even within the chamber, still, as we 
have already pointed out, most of the great Irish heroes 
and kings were in popular belief literally gods incarnate, and, 
therefore (as commonly among all ancient peoples, civilized 
and non-civilized, who held the same doctrine), the tomb 
of such a divine personage came to be regarded as the actual 
dwelling of the once incarnate god, even though his bones 
were long turned to dust. The Book of Ballymote strengthens 
this suggestion : in one of its ancient Irish poems, by MacNia, 
son of Oenna, preceded by this mystical dedication, * Ye 
Poets of Bregia, of truth, not false,' the wonders of the 
Palace of the Boyne, the Hall of the great god Daghda, 
supreme king and oracle of the Tuatha de Danann, are thus 
celebrated : — 

Behold the Sidh before your eyes, 

It is manifest to you that it is a king's mansion, 

Which was built by the firm Daghda ; 

It was a wonder, a court, an admirable hill.^ 

It seems clear enough, from the old Irish manuscripts 
referred to by Mr. Coffey,^ that the Boyne country near Tara ^ 
was the sacred and religious centre of ancient Ireland, and * 
was used by the Irish in very much the same way as Memphis / 

* G. Coffey, in Rl. It. Acad. Trans., xxx. 73-92. 

* Fol. 190 b ; trans. O'Curry, Lectures, p. 505. 

' Mr. Coffey quotes from the Senchus-na-Relec, in L.U., this significant 
passage : — * The nobles of the Tuatha De Danann were used to bury at 
Brugh (i. e. the Dagda with his three sons ; also Lugaidh, and Oe, and 011am, 
and Ogma, and Etan the Poetess, and Corpre, the son of Etan) ' (G. Coffey, 
op. cit., xxx. yy). The manuscript, however, being late and directly under 
Christian influence, echoes but imperfectly very ancient Celtic tradition : 
the immortal god-race are therein rationalized by the transcribers, and 
made subject to death. 


and other places on the sacred Nile were used by the ancient 
Egyptians, both as a royal cemetery and as a place for the 
celebration of pagan mysteries. It is known that most of 
the Mysteries of Antiquity were psychic in their nature, 
having to do with the neophyte's entrance into Hades or 
the invisible world while out of the physical body, or else 
with direct communication with gods, spirits, and shades 
of the dead, while in the physical body ; and such mysteries 
were performed in darkened chambers from which all light 
was excluded. These chambers were often carved out of 
solid rock, as can be seen in the Rock Temples of India ; and 
when mountain caves or natural caverns were not available, 
artificial ones were used (see chapter x). 

The places, like Tara and Memphis, where the great men 
and kings of the nations of antiquity were entombed, being 
the most sacred, were very often, on that account, also the 
places dedicated to the most magnificent temples and to the 
Mysteries, or among less advanced nations to the worship 
of the dead. On every side of sacred Stonehenge, Salisbury 
Plain is dotted with the burial mounds of unknown heroes 
and chieftains of ancient Britain ; while in modern times, 
even though the Mysteries are long forgotten, Westminster 
Abbey, at the centre of the planet's capital, has, in turn, 
become the hallowed Hall of the Mighty Dead for the vast 
British Empire. In view of all these facts, after a careful 
examination of the famous New Grange tumulus itself, and 
a study of the references to it in old Irish literature, we are 
firmly of the opinion that one cannot be far wrong in describ- 
ing it as a spirit-temple in which were celebrated ancient 
Celtic or pre-Celtic Mysteries at the time when neophytes, 
including those of royal blood, were initiated ; and as such 
it is directly related to a cult of the Tuatha De Danann or 
Fairy-Folk, of spirits, and of the dead. Nor are we alone 
in this opinion. Mr. Coffey himself, we believe, is inclined 
to favour it ; and Mr. W. C. Borlase, author of The Dolmens 
of Ireland, who is quite committed to it, says that it is not 
necessary, as some do, to consider New Grange as an ancient 
abode of mortal men, for * the spirits of the dead, the fairies, 


the Sidhe, might have had their brugh, or palace, as well '.^ 
And he points out that in the old Irish manuscripts we 
have proof that it was supposed to be thus used. This 
proof is found in the Agallamh na Sendrach or * Colloquy 
with the Ancients * by St. Patrick, from the Book of 
Lismore, a fifteenth-century manuscript copied from older 
manuscripts and now translated by Standish H. O' Grady : — 
The three sons of the King of Ireland, by name Ruidhe, 
Fiacha, and Eochaid, leaving their nurse's and guardian's 
house, went to fert na ndruadh, i. e. * grave of the wizards *, * 
north-west of Tara, to ask of their father a country, *• 
a domain ; but he refused their request, and then they 
formed a project to gain lands and riches by fasting on the 
tuatha de Danann at the hrugh upon the Boyne : ' " Lands 
therefore I will not bestow on you, but win lands for your- 4 
self." Thereupon they with the ready rising of one man 
rose and took their way to the green of the hrugh upon the^ 
Boyne where, none other being in their company, they sat 
them down. Ruidhe said : " What is your plan to-night ? " 
His brothers rejoined : " Our project is to fast on the tuatha , 
de Danann, aiming thus to win from them good fortune in ' 
the shape of a country, of a domain, of lands, and to have - 
vast riches." Nor had they been long there when they 
marked a cheery-looking young man of a pacific demeanour 
that came towards them. He salutes the king of Ireland's • 
sons ; they answer him after the same manner. " Young 
man, whence art thou? whence comest thou? " "Out of 
yonder hrugh chequered with the many lights hard by you 
here." ** What name wearest thou ? " " I am the Daghda's 
son Bodhb Derg ; and to the tuatha de Danann it was revealed 
that ye would come to fast here to-night, for lands and for 
great fortune." ' Then with Bodhb Derg, the three sons of 
Ireland's king entered into the hrugh, and the tuatha de 
Danann went into council, and Midhir Yellow-mane son of 
the Daghda who presided said : * Those yonder accommodate ■ 
now with three wives, since from wives it is that either fortune 
or misfortune is derived.' And from their marriages with . 

^ W. C. Borlase, Dolmens of Ireland (London, 1897), ii. 346 n. 


the three daughters of Midhir they derived all their wishes — » 
territories and wealth in the greatest abundance. ' For three ' 
days with their nights they abode in the sidh.' * Angus ' 
told them to carry away out of fidh omna, 1. e. "Oakwood," » 
three apple-trees : one in full bloom, another shedding the 
blossom, and another covered with ripe fruit. Then they 
repaired to the dun, where they abode for three times fifty 
years, and until those kings disappeared ; for in virtue of 
marriage alliance they returned again to the tuatha de 
Danann, and from that time forth have remained there.' ^ 

Mr. Borlase, commenting on this passage, suggests its 
importance in proving to us that during the Middle Ages 
there existed a tradition, thus committed to writing from 
older manuscripts or from oral sources, regarding * the 
nature of the rites performed in pagan times at those places, 
which were held sacred to the heathen mysteries '.^ The 
passage evidently describes a cult of royal or famous ances- 
tral spirits identified with the god-race of Tuatha De Danann, 
who, as we know, being reborn as mortals, ruled Ireland. 
These ancestral spirits were to be approached by a pilgrimage . 
made to their abode, the spirit-haunted tumulus, and a 
residence in it of three days and three nights during which 
period there was to be an unbroken fast. Sacrifices were ' 
doubtless offered to the gods, or spirit-ancestors ; and while 1 
they were * fasted upon ', they were expected to appear and 
grant the pilgrim's prayer and to speak with him. All this 
indicates that the existence of invisible beings was taken for 
granted, probably through the knowledge gained by initiation. • 

The Echtra Nerai or the * Adventures of Nera ' (see this 
study, p. 287), contains a description like the one above, of 
how a mortal named Nera went into the S^W/j^-palace at 
Cruachan ; and it is said that he went not only into the cave • 
(uamh) but into the sid of the cave. The term uamh or cave, * 
according to Mr. Borlase, indicates the whole of the interior ' 
vaulted chamber, while the sid of that vaulted chamber ' 
or uamh is intended to refer to ' the sanctum sanctorum, or * 

* As translated in the Silva Gadelica, ii. 109-11. 

* Borlase, op. cit., ii. 346-7 n. 


penetralia of the spirit-temple, upon entering into which the 
mortal came face to face with the royal occupants, and there 
doubtless he lay fasting, or offering his sacrifices, at the : 
periods prescribed'.^ The word hrugh refers simply to the 
appearance of a tumulus, or souterrain beneath a fort or 
rath, and means, therefore, mansion or dwelling-place. ^ 
And Mr. Borlase adds : — * I feel but little doubt that in the 
inner chamber at New Grange, with its three recesses and^ 
its basin, we have this sid of the cave, and the place where 
the pilgrims fasted — a situation and a practice precisely 
similar to those which, under Christian auspices, were con- 
tinued at such places as the Leaba Mologa in Cork, the 
original Patrick's Purgatory in Lough Derg, and elsewhere. 
The practice of lying in stone troughs was a feature of the 
Christian pilgrimages in Ireland. Sometimes such troughs 
had served the previous purpose of stone coffins. It is just-- 
possible that the shallow basins in the cells at Lough Crew, 
New Grange, and Dowth may, like the stone beds or troughs 
of the saints,^ have been occupied by the pilgrims engaged > 
in their devotions. If so, however, they must have sat in 
them in Eastern fashion.' ^ ' 

Again, in the popular tale called The Pursuit of Diarmuid 
and Grainn^,^ Aengus, the son of the Dagda, one of the 
Tuatha De Danann, is called Aengus-an-Bhrogha, and con- ^ 
nected with the Brugh-na-Boinne. In the tale Finn says,> 
* Let us leave this tulach, for fear that Aengus-an-Bhrogha 
and the Tuatha-De-Danann might catch us ; and though we 
have no part in the slaying of Diarmuid, he would none the 
more readily believe us.' Aengus is evidently an invisible 
being with great power over mortals. This is clear in what 
follows : he transports Diarmuid's body to the Brugh-na- 
Boinne, saying, * Since I cannot restore him to life, I will 
send a soul into him, so that he may talk to me each day.' 
Thus, as the presiding deity of the hrugh, Aengus the Tuatha ■* 

* Borlase, op, cit., ii. 346-7 n. ^ lb., ii. 347 n. 

' A good example of a saint's stone bed can be seen now at Glendalough, 
the stone bed of St. Kevin, high above a rocky shore of the lake. 

* Coflfey, op. cit., xxx. 73-4, from R. I. A. MS., by Michael O'Longan, 
dated 18 10, p. 10, and translated by Douglas Hyde. 


De Danann could reanimate dead bodies * and cause them , 
to speak to devotees, we may suppose oracularly.' ^ In ^ 
the Bruighion Chaorthainn or ' Fort of the Rowan Tree ', 
a Fenian tale, a poet put Finn under taboo to understand 
these verses : — 

I saw a house in the country 

Out of which no hostages are given to a king, 

Fire burns it not, harrying spoils it not. 

And Finn made reply : — * I understand that verse, for that 
is the Brugh of the Boyne that you have seen (perhaps, as 
we suggest, during an initiation), namely, the house of 
Aengus Og of the Brugh, and it cannot be burned or harried 
as long as Aengus (a god) shall live.' As Mr. Borlase observes, 
to say that ' no hostages are given to a king ' out of the 
Brugh is probably another way of saying that the dead pay 
no taxes, or that being a holy place, the Brugh was exempt .2 
This last evidence is from oral tradition, and rather late in 
being placed on record ; but it is not on that account less 
trustworthy, and may be much more so than the older manu- 
scripts. Until quite modern times the folk-lore of the Boyne 
country still echoed similar traditions about unknown mystic 
rites, following what O'Donovan has recorded; for he has said 
that Aenghus-an-Bhrogha was considered the presiding fairy 
of the Boyne till quite within recent times-, and that his . 
name was still familiar to the old inhabitants of Meath who 
were then fast forgetting their traditions with the Irish 
language.^ And this tradition brings us to consider what 
was apparently an Aengus Cult among the ancient Celtic 

The Aengus Cult 

Euhemeristic tradition came to represent the Great God 
Dagda and his sons as buried in a tumulus, probably New » 
Grange, and then called it, as I found it called to-day, ' 
a fairy mound, a name given also to Gavrinis, its Breton 
parallel. The older and clearer tradition relates how Aengus 

* Cofifey, op. cit., xxv. 73-4, from R. I. A. MS. by Michael O'Longan, 
dated 18 10, p. 10, and trans, by Douglas Hyde. 

* Borlase, op. cit., ii. 347 n. ' O'Donovan, Four Masters, i. 22 u. 


gained possession of the Brugh of the Boyne, and says nothing 
about it as a cemetery, but rather describes it as * an admir- 
able place, more accurately speaking, as an admirable land, 
a term which betrays the usual identification of the fairy * 
mound with the nether world to which it formed the ^ 
entrance '.^ The myth placing Dagda at the head of the 
departed makes him * a Goidelic Cronus ruling over an ' 
Elysium with which a sepulchral mound was associated '.*# 
The displacement of Dagda by his son makes ' Mac Oc 
(Aengus), who should have been the youthful Zeus of the * 
GoideUc world, rejoicing in the translucent expanse of the 
heavens as his crystal bower ', a king of the dead.* 

In Dun Aengus, the strange cyclopean circular structure, • 
and hence most likely sun-temple, on Aranmore, we have « 
another example of the localization of the Aengus myth. This • 
fact leads us to believe, after due archaeological examination, 
that amid the stronghold of Dun Aengus, with its tiers of » 
amphitheatre-like seats and the native rock at its centre, * 
apparently squared to form a platform or stage, were • 
anciently celebrated pagan mysteries comparable to those « 
of the Greeks and less cultured peoples, and initiations into • 
an Aengus Cult such as seems to have once flourished at i 
New Grange. At Dun Aengus, however, the mystic assem- 
blies and rites, conducted in such a sun-temple, so secure » 
and so strongly fortified against intrusion, no doubt repre- ^ 
sented a somewhat different mystical school, and probably • 
one very much older than at New Grange. In the same 
manner, each of the other circular but less important cyclo- t 
pean structures on Aranmore and elsewhere in west Ireland 
may have been structures for closely related sun-cults. To our ? 
mind, and we have carefully and at leisure examined most 
of these cyclopean structures on Aranmore, it seems alto- 
gether fanciful to consider them as having been originally 
and primarily intended as places of refuge — duns or forts. 
Yet, because the ancient Celts never separated civil and 
religious functions, such probable sun-temples could have 
been as frequently used for non-religious tribal assemblies 

* Rhys, Hib. Led., pp. 148-50. 


as for initiation ceremonies ; and nothing makes it impossible 
for them to have been in times of need also places for refuge 
against enemies. We are led to this view with respect to 
Dun Aengus in particular, because the Aengus of Aranmore 
is known as Aengus, son of Umdr, and is associated with 
the mystic people called the Fir Bolg ; and, yet, as Sir John 
Rhys thinks, this Aengus, son of Umor, and Aengus, son of 
Dagda, are two aspects of a single god, a Celtic Zeus.^ 
O'Curry's statements about Dun Aengus seem to confirm 
all this ; and there seems to have been a tale, now lost, about 
the ' Destruction of Dun Oengusa ' (in modern Irish Dun 
Aonghuis), the Fortress of Aengus.^ 

This sun-cult, represented in Ireland by the Aengus Cult, 
can be traced further : Sir John Rhys regards Stonehenge — 
a sun-temple also circular like the Irish dtins and Breton • 
cromlechs — as a temple to the Celtic Zeus, in Irish mythology ' 
typified by Aengus, and in Welsh by Merlin : — * What sort ' 
of a temple could have been more appropriate for the 
primary god of light and of the luminous heavens than 
a spacious, open-air enclosure of a circular form like Stone- 
henge ? ' 2 In Welsh myth, Math ab Mathonwy, called also . 
' Math the Ancient ', was the greatest magician of ancient' 
Wales, and his relation as teacher to Gwydion ab Don, the 
great Welsh Culture Hero, leads Sir John Rhys to consider 
him the Brythonic Zeus, though Merlin shares with him in 
this distinction ; ^ and since the Gaelic counterpart of Math 
is Aengus, a close study of Math might finally show a cult 
in his honour in Wales as we have found in Ireland an 
Aengus Cult.* We may, therefore, with more or less exact- 

^ Cf. O'Curry, Manners and Customs, ii. 122 ; iii. 5, 74, 122 ; Rhys, 
Hib. Led., pp. 150, 150 n. ; Jubainville, Essai d'un Catalogue, p. 244. 

' Rhys, Hib. Led., p. 194. 

' Math ab Mathonwy's Irish counterpart is Math mac Umoir, the 
magician {Book of Leinster, i. 9** ; cf. Rhys, Trans. Third Inter. Cong. Hist. 
Religions, Oxford, 1908, ii. 211). 

* Rhys, ib., pp. 225-6; cf. R. B. Mabinogion, p. 60; Triads, i. 32, ii. 20, iii. 
90. A fortified hill-top now known as Pen y Gaer, or ' Hill of the Fortress ', 
on the western side of the Conway, on a mountain within sight of the rail- 
way station of Tal y Cafn, Carnarvonshire, is regarded by Sir John Rhys as 
the site of a long-forgotten cult of Math the Ancient. (Rhys, ib., p. 225). 



ness, equate the Aengus Cult as we see it in Irish myth 
connected chiefly with Dun Aengus and New Grange, with 
the unknown cult practised at Stonehenge, and this in turn 
with other Brythonic or pre-Brythonic sun-cults and initia- 
tions practised at Carnac, the great Celtic Jerusalem in 
Brittany, and at Gavrinis. All this will be more clearly 
seen after we have set forth what seems a definite and most 
striking parallel to New Grange, both as a monument 
erected by man and, as we maintain, as a place for religious 
mysteries — the greatest structure ever raised by human 
effort, the Great Pyramid. 

New Grange and the Great Pyramid compared 

Caliph Al Mamoun in A. d. 820, by a forced passage, was 
the first in modern times to enter the Great Pyramid, and he 
found nowhere a mummy or any indications that the struc- , 
ture had ever been used as a tomb for the dead. The King's / 
Chamber, so named by us moderns, proved to be a keen 
disappointment for its first violator, for in it there was 
neither gold nor silver nor anything at all worth carrying / 
away. The magnificent chamber contained nothing save* 
an empty stone chest without a lid. Archaeologists in f 
Egypt and archaeologists in Ireland face the same unsolved 
problem, namely, the purpose of the empty stone chest 
without inscriptions and quite unlike a mummy tomb, and 
of the stone basin in New Grange.^ Certain Egyptologists 
have supposed that some royal personage must have been 
buried in ,the curious granite coffer, though there can be 
only their supposition to support them, for they have 
absolutely no proof that such is true, while there is strong 
circumstantial evidence to show that such is not true. 
Sir Gardner Wilkinson in his well-known publications has 
already suggested that the stone chest as well as the Great 
Pyramid itself were never intended to hold a corpse ; and * 

* This stone basin, now in the centre of the inner chamber, seems origin- 
ally to have stood in the east recess, the largest and most richly inscribed. 
It is 4 feet long, 3 feet 6 inches across, and i foot thick. (Coffey, op. cit., 
XXX. 14, 21). 


it is generally admitted by Egyptologists that no sarcophagus 
intended for a mummy has ever been found so high up in 
the body of a pyramid as this empty stone chest, except in 
the Second Pyramid. Incontestable evidence in support of 
the highly probable theory that the Great Pyramid was not 
intended for an actual tomb can be drawn from two im- 
portant facts : — (i) ' the coffer has certain remarkable cubic 
proportions which show a care and design beyond what 
could be expected in any burial-coffer ' — according to the 
high authority of Dr. Flinders Petrie ; (2) the chamber 
containing the coffer and the upper passage-ways have 
ventilating channels not known in any other Pyramid, so that 
apparently there must have been need of frequent entrance 
into the chamber by living men, as would be the case if 
used, as we hold, for initiation ceremonies.^ 

It is well known that very many of the megalithic monu- 
ments of the New Grange type scattered over Europe, 
especially from the Carnac centre of Brittany to the Tara- 
Boyne centre of Ireland, have one thing in common, an 
astronomical arrangement like the Great Pyramid, and an 
entrance facing one of the points of the solstices, usually 
either the winter solstice, which is common, or the summer 
solstice.2 The puzzle has always been to discover the exact 
arrangement of the Great Pyramid by locating its main 
entrance. A Californian, Mr. Louis P. McCarty, in his recent 
(1907) work entitled The Great Pyramid Jeezeh, suggests 
with the most logical and reasonable arguments that the 
builders of the Pyramid have placed its main entrance in an 
undiscovered passage-way beneath the Great Sphinx, now 
half -buried in the shifting desert sands. If it can be shown 
that the Sphinx is the real portal, and many things tend to 

* Cf. W. M. Flinders Petrie, The Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh (London, 
1883), p. 2or. 

' All of the chief megaliths of this type, together with the chief aligne- 
ments, which I have personally inspected — with the aid of a compass — in 
Ireland, Scotland, Isle of Man, Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany, are definitely 
aligned east and west. It cannot be said, however, that all megalithic 
monuments throughout Celtic countries show definite orientation (see 
Dechelette's Manuel d' Atcheologie). 

E 62 


indicate that it is, the Great Pyramid is built on the 
same plan as New Grange, that is to say, it opens to the 
south-east, and like New Grange contains a narrow passage- 
way leading to a central chamber. South-easterly from , 
the centre of the Pyramid lies the Sphinx, 5,380 feet away, ' 
a distance equal to ' just five times the distance of the 
** diagonal socket length " of the Great Pyramid from the 
centre of the Subterranean Chamber, under the Pyramid, 
to the supposed entrance under the Sphinx ' ^ — a distance 
quite in keeping with the mighty proportions of the wonder- 
ful structure. And what is important, several eminent 
archaeologists have worked out the same conclusion, and / 
have been seeking to connect the two monuments by making * 
excavations in the Queen's Chamber, where it is supposed ■ 
there exists a tunnel to the Sphinx. In all this we should # 
bear in mind that the present entrance to the Pyramid is 
the forced one made by the treasure-seeking Caliph. 

This very probable astronomical parallelism between the 
great Egyptian monument and the Irish one would estab- 
lish their common religious, or, in a mystic sense, their 
funereal significance. In the preceding chapter we have set 
forth what symbolical relation the sun, its rising and setting, 
and its death at the winter equinox, were anciently supposed 
to hold to the doctrines of human death and re-birth. Jubain- 
ville, regarding the sun among the Celts in its symbolical 
relation to death, wrote, ' In Celtic belief, the dead go to 
live beyond the Ocean, to the south-west, there where the 
sun sets during the greater part of the year.' 2 This, too, as 
M. Maspero shows, was an Egyptian belief ; ^ while, as equally 
among the Celts, the east, especially the south-east, where, » 
after the winter solstice, the sun seems to be re-born or to -- 
rise out of the underworld of Hades into which it goes when • 
it dies, is symbolical of the reverse — Life, Resurrection, and • 
Re-birth. In this last Celtic-Egyptian belief, we maintain, 
may be found the reason why the chief megalithic monu- 

* L. P. McCarty, The Great Pyramid Jeezeh (San Francisco, 1907), p. 402. 

* Jubainville, Le Cycle Myth. Irl., p. 28. 

' Maspero, Les Contes populaires de I'Egypte Ancienne,* p. 74 n. 


ments (dolmens, tumuli, and alignements), in Celtic countries 
and elsewhere, have their directions east and west, and 
why those like New Grange and Gavrinis open to the sunrise. 
Greek temples also opened to the sunrise, and on the 
divine image within fell the first rays of the beautiful god 
ApoUo.i In the great Peruvian sun-temple at Cuzco, a 
splendid disk of pure gold faced the east, and, reflecting the 
first rays of the rising sun, illuminated the whole sanctuary.'^ 
The cave-temple of the Florida Red Men opened eastward, *- 
and within its entrance on festival days stood the priest at 
dawn watching for the first ray of the sun, as a sign to begin 
the chant and offering.^ The East Indian performs the 
ablution at dawn in the sacred Ganges, and stands facing 
the east meditating, as Brahma appears in all the wondrous 
glory of a tropical sunrise.* And in the same Aryan land 
there is an opposite worship : the dreaded Thugs, wor- - 
shippers of devils and of Kali the death-goddess, in their * 
most diabolical rites face the west and the sunset, symbols 
of death.^ How Christianity was shaped by paganism is 
nowhere clearer than in the orientation of great cathedral 
churches (almost without exception in England), for all of 
the more famous ones have their altars eastward ; and 
Roman Catholics in prayer in their church services, and 
Anglicans in repeating the Creed, turn to the east, as the 
Hindu does. St. Augustine says : — ' When we stand at 
prayer, we turn to the east, where the heaven arises, not 
as though God were only there, and had forsaken all other 
parts of the world, but to admonish our mind to turn to 
a more excellent nature, that is, to the Lord.' ^ Though the 
Jews came to be utterly opposed to sun-worship in their 
later history, they were sun- worshippers at first, as their 
temples opening eastward testify. This was the vision of 

* Tylor, Prim. Cult.,* ii. 426. > 

* W. H. Prescott, Conquest of Peru, i, c. 3. 

* Rochefort, lies Antilles, p. 365 ; cf. Tylor, P.C.,* ii. 424. 

* Colebrooke, Essays, vols, i, iv, v ; cf. Tylor, P.C.,* 425. 

' Illus. Hist, and Pract. of Thugs (London, 1837), p. 46 ; cf. Tylor, 
P.C.* ii. 425. 

* Augustin. de Serm. Dom. in Monte, ii. 5 ; cf. Tylor, P.C.,*ii. 427-8. 


Ezekiel : — 'And, behold, at the door of the temple of Jehovah, , 
between the porch and the Altar, were about five and twenty • 
men, with their backs toward the temple of Jehovah, and • 
their faces toward the east, and they worshipped the sun « 
toward the east.' ^ 

All this illustrates the once world-wide religion of our race ; - 
and shows that sun-cults and sun-symbols are derived from t 
a universal doctrine regarding the two states of existence — » 
the one in Hades or the invisible lower world where the • 
Sun-god goes at night, and the other in what we call the • 
visible realm which the Sun-god visits daily.^ The relation » 
between life and death — symbolically figured in this funda- i 
mental conception forming the background of every sun- ' 
cult — is the foundation of all ancient mysteries. Thus we» 
should expect the correspondences which we believe do 
exist between New Grange and the Great Pyramid. Both 
alike, in our opinion, were the greatest places in the respective > 
countries for the celebration of the Mysteries. High up » 
in the body of the Great Pyramid, after he had performed ' 
the long underground journey, typical of the journey of' 
Osiris or the Sun to the Otherworld or the World of the Dead, > 
we may suppose (knowing what we do of the Ancient 
Mysteries and their shadows in modern Masonic initiations ^) 
that the royal or priestly neophyte laid himself in that 
strange stone coffin without a lid, for a certain period of 
time — probably for three days and three nights. Then, the 
initiation being complete, he arose from the mystic death > 
to a real resurrection, a true child of Osiris. In New Grange 
we may suppose that the royal or priestly neophyte, while 
he ' fasted on the Tuatha De Danann for three days with * 
their nights ', sat in that strange stone basin after the manner » 
of the Orient .4 i 

• Ezek. viii. i6. The popular opinion that Christians face the east in 
prayer, or have altars eastward because Jerusalem is eastward, does not 
fit in w