IN THE ISLE OF MAN
by SOPHIA MORRISON, Hon. Secretary of the Manx Language
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
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
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 like little stars, and I heard one of the Little
Fellas shout, "Hraaghyn boght as earish broigh, skeddan dy liooar ec yn mooinjer seilhll shoh, cha
nel 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
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 belonging 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 Ellan,
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 boat).
It seems to me that no one of the various theories so far advanced
accounts in itself for the Fairy-Faith. There is 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 schooling
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 something 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 descendants 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 personalities 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
companions; 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,
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
over some stream. I remember coming home on a dark night with a boy
companion and bearing 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
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 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 months
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 Fairyland, 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
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 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.
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.'
Q.--By the inner world do you mean the Celtic Otherworld?
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 harmony 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
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 Seership
Q.--Under what state or condition and where have you seen such
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 description 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 luminous
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
'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
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 colour.'
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
Nature of 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 themselves 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 opalescent or Sidhe beings,
in the heaven-world, there is an even closer spiritual unity, but also a
Influence of the 'Sidhe' on Men
Q.--Do you consider any of these Sidhe beings inimical to
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
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
A.--'I have seen forms both male and female, and forms which did not
suggest sex at all.'
'Sidhe' and Human Life
Q.--(1) 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
A.--(1) 'I cannot say.' (2) 'Yes; both in trance and after death. I
think any one who thought much of the Sidhe during his life 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
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 consciously organized like human society, I cannot
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
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 least 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
This is what Mr. William B. Yeats wrote to me, while this study was
in progress, concerning the Celtic Fairy Kingdom:--'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 independent folk-testimony, substantiate the opinions
and statements 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, 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 particular 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 back 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
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 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
'Michael Reddy (our next witness) saw the gentry down on the
Greenlands in regimentals like an army, and in daylight. 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 neighbouring 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 pointing 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
'Sidhe' Music.--The story which now follows substantiates 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.'
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 light 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.'
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 physician, 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
'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 consciousness and we cease to be human; we
become divine beings.' (Recorded in Oxford, England, August 12, 1911.)
Introduction by The Right Hon. SIR JOHN RHY^S, 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
The folk-lore of Wales in as far as it concerns the Fairies consists
of a very few typical tales, such as:--
(1) 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 conditions, 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 Fach, in Carmarthenshire, the condition 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 Fouqué. 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 bow
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
changeling 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 arrangements, 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 hearing, 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 speaking, 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,
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.'
According to the belief in South Carnarvonshire, 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. Tylwyth Teg lived in caves; others of them lived 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.
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 lithe 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 invisibility; 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.'
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
approached, 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 earth.'
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 line 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 grandfather
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.'
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 bad 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
'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 considered 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
'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
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, be 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.
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 perception 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
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