Mythical Monday: Pixie Day in Ottery St. Mary

Imagine living in a town where pixies are celebrated every year!

In East Devon, England, there is a town called Ottery St. Mary. Each June, on the Saturday nearest Mid-Summer’s Day, they celebrate Pixie Day.

How did the tradition start? 

It all began in 1454, when Bishop Grandisson decided to build a church. The church was to be built in Otteri, which was later called Ottery St. Mary.

The bishop commissioned a set of bells for the church. They were to be cast in iron in the bells works in Wales. When the bells were ready, the bishop arranged for a group of monks to escort the bells from Wales.

Now, this was an age when the people of East Devon believed strongly in pixies and spirits.

To pixies, iron means death. And when they learned about the bells being installed in the church, they became very worried. It would be the end of their rule over the land.

The pixies cast a spell over the monks that were escorting the bells. They became Pixie-Led. Instead of the Otteri road, the monks ended up on the road toward the cliffs overlooking the sea at Sidmouth.

Just as the monks were about to fall over the cliff, one of them stubbed his toe on a rock. “God bless my soul,” he said, and immediately the spell was broken.

So, the bells were brought to Otteri after all, and installed in the church.  The Pixies hated the sound of the iron bells and fled to the nearby cave known as the Pixie Parlour. The sandstone cave is along the River Otter, about a mile south of the Otter Road bridge.

Pixie Parlour at Ottery St. Mary’s

The Pixie spell however, wasn’t completely broken.

Each year on a day in June, the Cub and Brownie groups dress as pixies and come out and capture the town’s bell ringers or parish council members.

They imprison them in a specially constructed Pixie Parlour in the Town Square to be rescued by the Vicar of Ottery St. Mary. The legend is re-enacted each year by the local Cub and Brownie groups.

Cubs and Brownies re-enact Pixie Day every June since 1954

 

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Have You Ever Been Pixie-Led?

Mythical Monday

Have you ever found yourself lost or wandering around trying to find your way?

Then, Pixie6it’s possible you may have been pixie-led!

Pixies are mythical creature commonly found in folklore particularly in the western parts of England. Up to the end of the 19th century, pixies and fairies were taken quite seriously as part of the ‘little people’, especially in Cornwall and Devon.

Pixies are Notoriously Mischievous

They are not malevolent creatures, but they are very mischievous, and love to torment and play tricks on humans.

Like many Faeries, Pixies dislike rude, greedy and cruel people and often single them out to be the victims of their pranks. They also hate human laziness.

Pixie1
Artwork by Brian Froud

They have been known to steal people’s belongings or throw things at them. They even steal horses at night, ride them wildly and then bring them back before dawn, their manes a tangled mess.

They rap on windows and walls, blow out candles, throw small stones at walls, kiss young girls in the dark and splash water around. Young girls were particularly prone to teasing by pixies. They would knot their hair or pinch one’s skin until it bruised.

So, if you find you have a lot of small items going missing, such as paper clips and pins, you might have a pixie problem. And if you happen to find your pixie’s lair, you just might find all those things that they’ve “borrowed”.

Getting Lost

Pixies are most notorious for confusing travellers. People have gotten lost even on familiar terrain. They can change aspects of the environment to confuse humans, and most reports mention a strange mist.

Pixie2
Artwork by Brian Froud

They lure travellers walking alone. The person would be so confused they could be lost for hours, or worse, vanish without a trace. This is what is known as pixie-led.

When I was doing my research on pixies, I found a fantastic website called Legendary Dartmoor According to the author, Tim Sandles, this really does happen! Dartmoor is located in southwest England in the county of Devon.

From their site:

Probably the best I have ever heard came from an old woman who has lived on the moor all her life. Whilst she had not actually experienced being pixie led herself her grandfather often related how he once earned the displeasure of the little folk and became ‘led’. Apparently one minute he was happily traipsing across the moor on a track he knew well. Suddenly a dense mist descended that appeared to have a very feint green tint to it, along with this the man’s head became ‘zwimmy’ (dizzy) and he began stumbling around trying to find his direction. The actual experience seemed to last for hours and he lost all track of time but when the mist lifted he looked at his watch and only a few minutes had passed. Despite thinking he had been wandering around for miles he had in fact only moved a few yards from the spot he had reached when the mist ascended.

 

Probably the most famous story of people being Piskie Led on Dartmoor is that of the unnamed couple who got lost near Okehampton. So relieved were they to have survived such an ordeal that the husband erected a granite cross next to the well where they were spared, known today as Fitz’s Well.

The author goes on to say:

There seem to be two modern conditions that can lead to people becoming ‘Piskie Led’, the first scenario involves an illegal substance or copious amounts of alcohol and the second is a result of the inability to read a map and compass – stoned, drunk or lost, blame it on the piskies.

How to Avoid Being Pixie-Led

One remedy to avoid being pixie-led during the 17th century was to turn your coat inside out, and if you didn’t have a coat, you could even turn your pocket out. Carrying a piece of bread could also prevent bewilderment.

If you leave gifts like honey, milk or cake, the pixies will regard this as a sign of respect and help with tidying up or helping around the farm. Sometimes doing favours for pixies will backfire though, and they may respond with mischief.

Pixie4
Artwork by Brian Froud

If you find yourself in the mist and suspect you are being pixie-led, find a spring of clear water and drink some to break the spell.

Don’t Invite Trouble!

stellaria-holostea-2Pixies are known to sleep among the Stitchwort plant, also known as Addersmeat, so to pick this plant is inviting trouble from them. Don’t do it!

 

Pixie5
Artwork by Brian Froud

What about You?

Have you ever found yourself lost in a mist, unable to find your way? I’d love to hear your stories. Leave a note in the comments!

Mythical Mondays: Were There Female Druids?

 

Who Were the Druids?

The Druids were ancient religious leaders of the Celtic people. The Celts were spread throughout Gaul, Britain, Ireland and other parts of Europe, Asia Minor and even the Balkans around the 5th century BC.

They were highly respected in society. They were advisors to the kings. They were intellectual as well as poets, astronomers, magicians and astrologers. It took them 19 years to gain the necessary knowledge and skills in alchemy, medicine, law, the sciences and more. They were healers and were involved in developing strategies for war.

The Druids officiated over public and private sacrifices. Tribal assemblies were held on days vital in the agricultural year, the solstices as well as Beltane, May 1, and Samhain, November 1.

They settled disputes and issued punishment. Those who did not obey the decisions of the Druids were banished from the tribe.

 

Women as Druids

DruidessFor centuries, there was a common misconception that Druids were only male, however, there are numerous references of women being Druids, as well.

Caesar was well aware of the female Druids, but most of the Roman writers ignored women in general, so references were far and few between.

Strabo wrote about a group of religious women who lived on an island near the Loir River, in the ocean but not far from the coast. No men were permitted on the island which was  inhabited by Samnite women.

Tacitus mentioned female Druids when he described the slaughter of the Druids by Romans on the Island of Mona in Wales. The women wore black and were known as Banduri (female Druids).  They dashed between the ranks of armed warriors with their hair dishevelled and waving brands.

Tacitus also noted that there was no distinction between male and female rulers, and that female Celts were very powerful.

According to the Pomponius Mela, nine virgin priestesses called the Gallizenae lived on the island of Sena in Brittany. They could stir up the sea, turn into animals, cure the uncurable and see the future.

Queen Boudicca of the British Celtic Iceni tribe was the descendant of a Druid and possibly a druid in her own right. She led an uprising agains the Romans in the 1st century AD.

There are many legends concerning a woman named Brighid. It is difficult to say

Alexandre_Cabanel_004
“The Druidess”, oil on canvas, by French painter Alexandre Cabanel (1823–1890) ( Public Domain )

whether she was a real woman or a Celtic goddess, patroness of poetry, learning, healing and craftmanship. Later the Christian church made her St. Brighid. Coincidentally, her feast day is February 1, which coincides to Imbolc, the pagan festival for the celebration of spring, though there is doubt whether the two Brighids are actually one and the same. There is some speculation however, that Irish Brighid was once the abbotess of a pagan sanctuary which later became Brighid’s monastery near Kildare.

Finn was a mythical character who was raised by a Druidess or ‘wise woman’. she taught him war craft, hunting and fishing, acted as guard and advisor.

Fedelma, a Druidess who was part Queen Medb of Connacht’s court predicted the outcome of the battle with the Ulstermen. “I see crimson, I see it red.” Her prophecy came true. Medb lost the battle and Cú Chulainn perished.

The Historia Augusta was written in 400 AD and mentions a Druidess foretelling the defeat of Alexander Severus. “Go forth but hope not for victory, nor put your trust in your warriors.”

The Roman Catholic church believed that female Druids were sorcerers and witches in cooperation with the devil. They also saw the knowledge of the Celts as a huge danger for their domination.

Druidry Today

DruidessIn the modern practice of Druidry, there are a good number of women involved, the druid community having good representation of both men and women.

Mythical Monday: What is Fairyland?

 

Apart, but Separate

Faery portalFairyland has also been called Faery or the Otherworld. It is not entirely part of our world, but not entirely separate, either.

The realm is said to exist just beyond reach, on a floating island or beneath a grassy mound, on a bleak wet bog or floating in the air.

Faery Portals

There are portals or gates between the worlds that would allow faeries and humans to pass through.

The entrance was usually a pit, pothole, cave, well, knoll, crevice or hill top. This entrance is also known as the Silver Bough or Silver Branch.

“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.”

Perfection

Fairyland is said to be a beautiful place, time doesn’t pass as is does in the mortal world. Blogpic-ET-fairies-900x1188-227x300The sun always shines, the weather is always fine and trees produced blossoms and fruit at the same time.

There is no ugliness, disease or pain. There is no aging and no death. Food tastes better than food on earth. Faeries spend their time merrymaking and dancing. They would have great feasts with grand processions of white horses adorned with silver bells.

Despite the perfection of their world, faeries would often desire what the mortal world holds. They made frequent raids on this side of the veil, and would steal food, shiny objects and even people.

Where is Faery?

Faery moundIn many stories, Faeries were believed to live in ancient medieval forts or stone circles. Faeries were often called the ‘little people’ or ‘hidden people’.  Some believe they were the original inhabitants of the land, and were displaced by humans migrating, which forced them into hiding.

fairy-cave-wallThe Irish Tuatha de Danaan were said to have lived in the síd or the earthen mounds and hills that dot the Irish landscape. The term sídhe has come to mean Faerie in general, but it more properly refers to the residences of the Faeries.

Individual or isolated faeries lived in caves, wells, woodlands, bushes mines, ruins, barns, stone circles and tumuli.

They either lived in their own dwellings or in Elf-hills or hillocks which were actually ancient burial mounds called by Elfin names.

Faeryland and the Land of the Dead

There is also a strong association between Faeryland and the realm of the dead. The two realms exist side by side, and are inextricably connected.

Becuma of the White Skin, An Irish Fairy TaleBecuma

In 1920, James Stephens wrote a book of Irish fairy tales, one of the stories being Becuma of the White Skin. This is an excerpt of how he describes the other realms:

There are more worlds than one, and in many ways they are unlike each other. But joy and sorrow, or, in other words, good and evil, are not absent in their degree from any of the worlds, for wherever there is life there is action, and action is but the expression of one or other of these qualities.

After this Earth there is the world of the Shí. Beyond it again lies the Many-Coloured Land. Next comes the Land of Wonder, and after that the Land of Promise awaits us. You will cross clay to get into the Shí; you will cross water to attain the Many-Coloured Land; fire must be passed ere the Land of Wonder is attained, but we do not know what will be crossed for the fourth world.

A council had been called in the Many-Coloured Land to discuss the case of a lady named Becuma Cneisgel, that is, Becuma of the White Skin, the daughter of Eogan Inver. She had run away from her husband Labraid and had taken refuge with Gadiar, one of the sons of Manannán mac Lir, the god of the sea, and the ruler, therefore, of that sphere.

It seems, then, that there is marriage in two other spheres. In the Shí matrimony is recorded as being parallel in every respect with earth-marriage, and the desire which urges to it seems to be as violent and inconstant as it is with us; but in the Many-Coloured Land marriage is but a contemplation of beauty, a brooding and meditation wherein all grosser desire is unknown and children are born to sinless parents.

In the Shí the crime of Becuma would have been lightly considered, and would have received none or but a nominal punishment, but in the second world a horrid gravity attaches to such a lapse, and the retribution meted is implacable and grim. It may be dissolution by fire, and that can note a destruction too final for the mind to contemplate; or it may be banishment from that sphere to a lower and worse one.

This was the fate of Becuma of the White Skin.

One may wonder how, having attained to that sphere, she could have carried with her so strong a memory of the earth. It is certain that she was not a fit person to exist in the Many-Coloured Land, and it is to be feared that she was organised too grossly even for life in the Shí.

She was an earth-woman, and she was banished to the earth.

Word was sent to the Shís of Ireland that this lady should not be permitted to enter any of them; from which it would seem that the ordinances of the Shí come from the higher world, and, it might follow, that the conduct of earth lies in the Shí.

In that way, the gates of her own world and the innumerable doors of Faery being closed against her, Becuma was forced to appear in the world of men.

 

Fairy-Land

Fairyland Edgar allan Poe

Dim vales—and shadowy floods—
And cloudy-looking woods,
Whose forms we can’t discover
For the tears that drip all over:
Huge moons there wax and wane—
Again—again—again—
Every moment of the night—
Forever changing places—
And they put out the star-light
With the breath from their pale faces.
About twelve by the moon-dial,
One more filmy than the rest
(A kind which, upon trial,
They have found to be the best)
Comes down—still down—and down
With its centre on the crown
Of a mountain’s eminence,
While its wide circumference
In easy drapery falls
Over hamlets, over halls,
Wherever they may be—
O’er the strange woods—o’er the sea—
Over spirits on the wing—
Over every drowsy thing—
And buries them up quite
In a labyrinth of light—
And then, how, deep! —O, deep,
Is the passion of their sleep.
In the morning they arise,
And their moony covering
Is soaring in the skies,
With the tempests as they toss,
Like—almost any thing—
Or a yellow Albatross.
They use that moon no more
For the same end as before,
Videlicet, a tent—
Which I think extravagant:
Its atomies, however,
Into a shower dissever,
Of which those butterflies
Of Earth, who seek the skies,
And so come down again
(Never-contented things!)
Have brought a specimen
Upon their quivering wings.
Source: The Complete Poems and Stories of Edgar Allan Poe (1946)
I hope you enjoyed reading about Faeryland! Let me know in the comments!
Jo-Ann
 

 

 

 

 

 

Mythical Monday: Avalon

What is Avalon?

Le Morte d’Arthur by James Archer (1860)

The mystical, mythical island of Avalon is central to the story of King Arthurian mythology. It’s name literally translates to “Isle of Apple Trees”.

The legendary island first appears in the pseudo-historical The History of the Kings of Britain written by Geoffrey of Monmouth in 1136.
King Arthur was taken to Avalon after he was seriously injured after the Battle of Camlann, the island being known for it’s healing qualities. According to Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, a barge appears carrying ladies wearing black hoods, and among them was his half-sister, Morgan le Fay.
The fate of Arthur, whether he lives or dies, is generally left untold.

Where is Avalon?

Glastonbury_Tor-_View_of_an_iconic_landmark_(geograph_5500644)
Glastonbury Tor–Photo by Eugene Birchall

Glastonbury has always been identified as the Isle of Avalon. How can that be when Glastonbury is not an island? It was an island at one point. It was completely surrounded by marshland.

glastonbury-857590_1920
The top of Glastonbury Tor, with St. Michaels Tower

Glastonbury was at one time called Ynys Witrin, Welsh for Isle of Glass. The name suggests that the location was at one point seen as an island.

By the 12th century, the surrounding  fenland in the Somerset Levels was drained and it was no longer an island. Ponter’s Ball Dyke would have been the only entrance to the island at one point until the Romans built another road to the island.
In Celtic times, it was believed that Glastonbury Tor, a massive hill, held a secret entrance to the underworld. It was a sacred location and pilgrims followed the pagan priests and priestesses in a procession up the Tor.

Glastonbury Abbey

Glastonburyabbey
Ruins of Glastonbury Abby–

Around 1190, the monks at Glastonbury Abbey claimed to have discovered the bones of Arthur and Guinevere. The new abbot, Henry de Sully, commissioned a search of the abbey grounds. At a depth of 16 feet, the monks were said to have discovered a massive tree trunk coffin and a leaden cross bearing the inscription.

 

Hic jacet sepultus inclitus rex Arturius in insula Avalonia.
(“Here lies entombed the renowned king Arthur in the island of Avalon.”)

 

14129677021_7edd87e40d_k
Site of the ancient graveyard where in 1191 the monks dug to find the tombs of Arthur and Guinevere–Photo by Neil Howard

Inside the coffin were two bodies, referred to as Arthur and “his queen”. The bones of the male body were described as being gigantic.

The remains were reburied in 1278 with great ceremony attended by King Edward I and his queen.

Historians generally dismiss the authenticity of the story, describing it as a publicity stunt to raise funds to repair the abbey, which was mostly burned in 1184.

Other locations for Avalon

A large number of locations have been put forward as being the ‘real’ Avalon. Avallon in Burgundy, France is part of a theory that connects King Arthur to the Romano-British leader Riothamus.

And then there are others who believe that Avalon is located in Sicily, Italy.

Why Sicily?

For centuries, there have been an amazing number of breathtaking mirages that appear

fenomeno-fata-morgana
Fata Morgana over the Strait of Messina between Sicily and Italy

over the Strait of Messina between Sicily and Italy. The optical phenomena known as Fata Morgana are mirages that are incredibly detailed and show entire cities on the horizon over the water.

The Fata Morgana phenomenon was named for Morgan le Fey. In the Sicilian version of the legend, Arthur is not actually dead but resting. He and Morgan le Fey are said to be deep inside Mount Etna, on the east coast of Sicily. His life is maintained by a single sip of the Holy Grail every year until he is needed again.

The legend tells that  Morgana came out of the water with a chariot pulled by seven horses. She threw three stones into the water with a spell that transformed the surface of the sea into a crystal, making it magically reflect the image of a city in constant motion.

Other suggestions for the location of Avalon include:

  • Arran, an island off the coast of Scotland
  • Ile d’Aval near Lannion
  • Isle of Sein--where nine priestesses lived off the coast of Brittany

I hope you enjoyed reading about Avalon! I first learned about the mystical place when reading the Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I fell in love with the place, sight unseen and in 2016 I was lucky enough to travel to Glastonbury with my family.

Family Glastonbury

What about you? Where do you think the REAL Avalon is?

Thanks for reading and have a great week!

 

Jo-Ann

 

 

Mythical Monday: Don’t Want to Offend Faeries? Read This!

Amy Brown 7
Artwork by Amy Brown

Faeries can be wonderful beings to have in your home, and although they can be pranksters at times, but they can also be helpful! They can help out with housework, farming or giving to the needy.

On the other hand, you might want to be careful, because faeries can also be offended quite easily, and an offended faery just might retaliate and bring some bad luck. They can spoil milk, pinch or push. You might find some unexpected bruises, too.

While Faeries enjoy playing tricks on people, they are not open to having tricks played on them. They do not take tricks in good humour!

And while they have been known to help themselves to shiny objects, food or tools, never steal from a Faery!

Amy Brown 6
Artwork by Amy Brown

Faeries can have unexpected reactions to minor things, such as bestowing a lavish reward for a small kindness or an exaggerated punishment for something minor.

The morals of faeries sometimes conflict with those of humans, but for the most part, they are in agreement with most human virtues and vices.

Faeries don’t like boasters and braggarts, nor do they like mean or rude people. Selfishness and laziness are also looked down upon.

They don’t like to be around gloomy people. They would much rather be around light-hearted and happy sorts.

Amy Brown 3
Artwork by Amy Brown

Never thank a Faery! This is a major taboo in the world of Faery. Why? There are several ideas on this. One is that it may be perceived by them as they are lesser than you and serving you. They don’t like that. Another reason is that the word ‘thanks’ seems like such a small reward for all the trouble they went to. Saying ‘thank you’ can also be seen as acknowledging a debt owed, and it is never a good idea to be in debt to the Good People.

Katherine Briggs suggests instead of saying thank you, ‘there is no fault with a bow or curtsy’. A gift in exchange works as well. Or you could say how glad you are to have things work out this way.

Never infringe on their privacy. Do not look at them directly and never spy on them or

Amy Brown 2
Artwork by Amy Brown

risk being blinded.

Trespassers into their habitats, faerie mounds or thorn trees, are punished, even if it was done accidentally.

Faerie gifts are given in secret. Never talk about your gifts from the faeries to others or you will find you will lose them.

 

If you wish to keep faeries away, whether its because you are uncomfortable with their presence or they are causing you mischief, there are ways to keep them at bay.

Amy Brown 1
Artwork by Amy Brown

Christian symbols such as the cross shield against evil faeries. This can also be by saying prayers, or singing hymns, holy water.

Bread and salt have been regarded as sacred since primitive times and are also effective at deterring faeries.

Ringing bells, whistling and snapping clappers are also protective.

You can also turn your coat inside out if you are travelling or are out and about.

If you are being chased by faeries you can leap across fresh, running water.

Self-bored stones have holes in them created by running water. To look through a self bored stone will allow a person to see through faerie glamour by looking through the faerie hole and can also protect animals and people from being kidnapped.

In my last post, I listed some plants and herbs that can attract faeries, but there are also

Amy Brown 4
Artwork by Amy Brown

plants that can be used as counter-charms to faeries.

The four-leaf clover is the most powerful, because it breaks faerie glamour. St. John’s Wort and Red Verbena protect against magic in general. Daisies can prevent children from being kidnapped.

The wood or red berries from Rowan or Ash trees will also protect adults.

Iron is probably the most effective protection against faeries, especially cold-wrought iron. Cold-wrought iron is created by beating raw iron instead of melting and casting it. Steel is also effective. People have used horseshoes, knives and scissors to keep faeries at bay, even hanging a pair of scissors over a baby’s crib to prevent kidnapping by faeries.

All artwork displayed is by Amy Brown. Please have a look at her gorgeous website and visit her Etsy shop!

 

I hope you enjoyed reading about Faeries and how not to offend them!

Jo-Ann

 

 

 

 

 

Mythical Monday: How to Attract Faeries

 

inthemossgardencsuzannegyseman
Artwork by Suzanne Gyseman

I’d like to start this post off by saying I’ve discovered this AMAZING faerie artist, Suzanne Gyseman, and I wanted to share her beautiful work with you! I’ve posted some of her faery art here on Inspiration Pie for you to enjoy, but if you’d like to see more, do check out her website!

Why would you want to attract Faeries?

Faeries have always been fascinating to humans. They are magickal, supernatural beings, each with their own gifts, talents and unique personalities.

Some believe they are always around us, especially when we are out in nature, and that you must be friendly to them in order to see them.

But are they guests that you would want in your home?

Not all Faeries are friendly or wish to have human contact at all. Some are helpful and kind, but others can be downright destructive.

Over the ages, there have been oodles of stories of faeries playing practical jokes on humans, stealing food and tools or even burning down a barn. Some people go through great lengths to not offend them, and might even use such elements as iron or bells to repel them from their homes.

The best types of Faerie to have in your home is the Scottish Brownie. They are known to help out with chores around the house.

Be careful not to invite Faeries of the Unseelie Court into your home, as they can be quite mean. You might feel a sickening feeling in their presence.

How to attract the right faeries

To attract helpful and kind Faeries, and win their favour, practice what they honour and avoid what they hate.

What characteristics do Faeries love in humans?

faerie_july2017csg
Artwork by Suzanne Gyseman
  • Kindness and virtue
    • Courteous manners
    • Truthfulness
    • Performing random acts of kindness to a stranger
    • Keep promises made
    • Be generous and fair in all dealings
  • Cleanliness
    • Welcome them with a neat and orderly home. Faeries don’t like clutter.
  • Respect Mother Nature
    • Recycling
    • Not littering or further damaging the Earth
    • Plant a Faery garden
    • Leave a corner of your garden wild and uncultivated
  • Be straightforward in your answers and ask straightforward questions
  • Show appreciation for their gifts.

If you wish to make contact with faeries, you must first work to win their trust.

Beltane and Midsummer are excellent times to make contact.

forestsecretcsgyseman
Artwork by Suzanne Gyseman

Gifts and food they love

  • Ground ginger, barley, sweets, cream
  • They love anything that glitters.
  • Clean water, butter, wine, honey and bread

Never toss gifts out like you are feeding wild animals, however. They consider this to be very disrespectful.

Faeries are also known to love stones as well. Some of their favourites are tiger’s eye, peridot, jade, lava, fluorite, and especially emerald.

Faeries are particularly fond of Hawthorn trees, Foxglove and Groundsel. Take care not to damage these plants, you might be dealing with a peeved Faery!

Faery bush
Motorway built around the “Sceach” , the sacred Faery bush

Faery trees such as Hawthorn and Blackthorn are considered dangerous to chop down. In 1999, a roadway in Clare County, Ireland had to have its plans changed because of protests not to damage the sacred Faery bush, also known as a “sceach”. Read the article here!

Interested in planting a faery garden?

Here are some plant that will attract faeries:

amongtheleavescsgyseman
Artwork by Suzanne Gyseman
  • Common Yarrow
  • New York Aster
  • Shasta Daisy
  • Western Giant Hyssop or Horsemint
  • French Lavender
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Fountain Butterfly Bush
  • Orange-eye Butterfly Bush
  • Shrubby Cinquefoil
  • Petunia
  • Verbena
  • Pincushion Flowers
  • Cosmos
  • Zinnia
  • Foxglove
  • Primrose
  • Ragwort
  • Cowslips
  • Pansies
  • Bluebell
  • 3-leaf Clover
  • St. Johns Wort
  • Toadstool
  • Foxglove
  • Groundsel
  • Lily of the Valley
  • Forget Me Not
moonmothfairycsgyseman
Artwork by Suzanne Gyseman

Trees that Faeries love

  • Hazel
  • Rowan
  • Blackthorn
  • Hawthorn
  • Oak
  • Willow
  • Elder
  • Birch
  • Alder
  • Apple
  • Ash

Source:  www.earthwitchery.com

I will have more next Monday on how to attract faeries (and how not to drive them off!)

What about you? Would you welcome Faeries into your home or are you afraid of them?

Thanks for reading and stopping by!

Jo-Ann

 

Mythical Monday: The Problem with Faeries

Brian Froud2
Artwork by Brian Froud

Faeries are unique supernatural beings that have their own hierarchy amongst themselves. Some types of faeries are more powerful than others, and have their own powers, strengths and temperaments.

They are capable of bringing good fortune to humans or bad luck if they become offended. It can be dangerous to anger them, even some of the weakest ones.

They can heal injuries and cure the sick, but they can also cause blight on plants and illness in animals and humans.

Problems Faeries can Cause

fairy-knotsHave you ever woken to find your hair in tiny tangles? These are called Elf-locks or Faery knots.

They may have the power of Glamour, making people see what they wish for them to see. Or, not see what is actually there.

They can cause people to get lost by changing landmarks, or disguise treacherous ground to make it appear safe.

They have been known to steal small items or lead travellers astray, but they are also

Brian Froud1
By artist Brian Froud

capable of more dangerous behaviour.

Consumption, also known as tuberculosis was sometimes blamed on the faeries forcing men and women to dance at their revels every night, and waste away from lack of rest.

Kidnapping and Changelings

Some believe that a sudden death might actually be a faery kidnapping, the corpse being a wooden stand-in or stock, about the same size as the kidnapped person. It would be crudely carved and then glamoured to make it look like the victim. Humans bury it, and the victim is not missed nor is rescue attempted.

Women were kidnapped to be used as midwives, nurse maids or nannies. Stories are told of the woman being asked to rub the eyes of the faery child with Faerie ointment, said to be made from shamrocks. When she inadvertently touches her own eyes, the ointment allows her to see through the Faerie glamour, and see the Faery world as it is. Grease on the fingers from a meal will have the same effect.

unseelie-court
Artwork by Brian Froud

Humans can be taken to be used for their skills at a craft, music or singing.

A man might be kidnapped to participate in a war or ball game, or he may have caught the eye of a Faerie lady. He may be used as a lover, and possibly as a stud.

Women, as well might be used as breeding stock.

Sometimes faery children are left in place of stolen human babies, called changelings. It’s likely that these children may have been afflicted with unexplained diseases, disorders or developmental disabilities, and changelings were used to explain their infirmities.

A more sinister reason for taking captives is to pay a teind or tithe to the Devil. Every seven years, one of their own must be given as tribute, and many legends hint that humans are used so the faeries may be spared.

As long as the human captive does not eat or drink any Faerie food, he or she may be rescued. He or she will be otherwise trapped forever.

Faeries have no scruples about stealing grain, milk or even cattle. They believe they are entitled to take whatever they need. Yet, they become furious if humans take from them.

They delight in playing tricks on people, but when the joke is on them, they usually do not take it in good humour.

Even when faeries are being kind, their goodwill can be embarrassing.  It is not unusual for faeries to reward a human friend by stealing from his neighbours.

Locations known to be faery haunts are to be avoided. Even cutting brush on faery forts was said to be the cause of death to those who did so.

Mythical Monday is part of series of posts on myths and legends. I hope you enjoy learning about Faeries and the legends and folklore surrounding them. Next week, I will continue the series with How to Win the Favour of the Faeries and Faults Condemned by Faeries.

See my other Posts on Mythical Monday:

Oberon: King of the Faeries

The Rise and Fall of Vortigern

Seelie and Unseelie Courts

Trooping and Solitary Faeries

 

 

Faeries: Seelie and Unseelie Courts

Mythical Mondays

Faeries are magical, enchanting creatures and a major part of European folklore. They have fascinated and frightened people for thousands of years. 

The Fairy folk are generally believed to be kind and helpful, but can be spiteful, especially if they’ve been offended. There have been tales of terrible luck to those that have been disrespectful or have damaged, by accident or on purpose, mystical sites such as fairy rings, paths, hillforts and trees.

Offerings such as milk, butter or wine has been said to win their favour.

The Seelie and Unseelie Courts are two groups of fairies in Scottish folklore.

The Seelie Court

The Seelie fairies, such as pixies, brownies, selkies, leprechauns and nature elementals Seelie Faerieare generally considered to be light, good and benevolent. The word Seelie stems from the Middle and Northern English word seely, and the Scots word seilie, meaning happy, lucky or blessed. Seilie Wichts is a Lowland Scots term for fairies.

The English word silly is derived from Seely and is recorded in numerous works of Middle English literature such as by Geoffrey Chaucer. 

In contrast, the word Unseelie means unhappy, misfortunate, unholy. 

 

james_browneThe Seelie Court is often looked at more favourably in human terms. They are more kindly disposed, or at the very least neutral toward humans who obey their laws. They are known to seek help from humans, warn those who have accidentally offended them and return kindness with favours of their own. 

They are capable of gratitude by rewarding any kindness done to them such as gifts of food, good health and fortune, and even being saved from danger or death.

Both courts, Seelie and Unseelie must be treated with caution. Fairies from the Seelie Court are quite capable of their own mischief and will not hesitate to avenge insults, though you’d much rather encounter a Seelie fairy than an Unseelie fairy.

Seelies are known for playing pranks on humans but with a light hearted attitude. They don’t necessarily realize how they might be affecting the humans they play pranks on.

Hobgoblins are one of the most common types of Seelie Fairies. An example of a famous hobgoblin is Puck in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. They are known for their love of pranks and practical jokes, not taking the joke too far. They can also be kind and generous. 

The Seelie court is ruled by the Fairy Queen, often named as Titania or Mab, as suggested800px-johann_heinrich_fc3bcssli_058 by Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.

In Irish folklore, the last High Queen of the Daoine Sidhe – and wife of the High King Finvarra – was named Oona. In the ballad tradition of Northern England and Lowland Scotland, she was called the Queen of Elphame.

The Unseelie Court

unseelie-courtThe Unseelie Court consists of the darkly-inclined fairies. They do not need to be offended to bring down their assaults. They appear at night and assault travellers, often carrying them through the air, beating them, and forcing them to commit such acts as shooting at cattle.

Just at the Seelie Court is not always kind hearted, the Unseelie court is not always malevolent. However, if forced to choose, most will prefer to harm rather than help humans.

Some can become fond of a particular human if they are viewed as respectful, and would choose to make them something of a pet.

The Unseelie court are known to not lie, but they do equivocate, and use ambiguous language to conceal the truth.

Many tales recorded in Medieval times were of Unseelies in human form that would seduce men and women into the woods with a luring embrace. Once kissed, they would be trapped into 7 years of servitude in the fairy realm.

Once a human had been lured to fairyland, they would spend years there in human time,unseelie which translated to only a matter of days in fairyland. When they were finally sent back or managed to escape, they’d be very old and decrepit, or immediately disintegrate into a pile of dust. 

Another legend was if a human stared too long at one of the Unseelie, the dark fairy would take on the image of a dead relative. 

Common characters in the Unseelie Court are Bogies, Redcaps (vicious creatures with hats drenched in human blood), Bogles, Boggarts, Abbey Lubbers and Buttery Spirits.

The Welsh fairies, Tylwyth Teg and the Irish Aos Sí are usually not classified as wholly good or wholly evil.

What do you think? Do you believe in faeries? Let me know in the comments!

Jo-Ann

Mythical Monday: Lady of the Lake

Lady of the Lake

The legendary Lady of the Lake appears in many of the tales of King Arthur. Also known as Dame de Lac in French, she was a woman of great magical power.

There seemed to be several “Lady of the Lake”. The most important was Niniane (also known as Viviane, Vivien or Nimue). Other names she had been referrred to include Nymue, Nimueh, Vivien, Vivienne, Ninianne, Nivian, Nyneve, or Evienne.

Niniane later became the guardian of the sword, especially when the dying Arthur returned Excalibur to the lake.

 

Where Did She Live?

The River Brue, Glastonbury
At the time of King Arthur the Brue formed a lake just south of the hilly ground on which Glastonbury stands. According to legend this lake is one of the locations suggested by Arthurian legend as the home of the Lady of the Lake.

According to legend, she lived in a castle beneath a lake that surrounded a mystical island called Avalon.

A great enchantment was cast upon her castle to hide her land from intruders, also believed to be a Celtic Otherworld.

Glastonbury is believed by many to be Avalon, though there are a number of locations in Great Britain that are traditionally associated with the Lady of the Lake.

Other possible locations include Martin Mere, Dozmary Pool, Llyn Llydaw, Llyn Ogwen, Llyn y Fanc Fach, The Loe, Pomparles Bridge, Loch Arthur.

It is now generally believed that the Lady of the Lake, including her connection to Arthur’s sword Excalibur, is of Breton origin. The Lady of the Lake is generally said to live in the forest of Brittany. 

Lancelot

It was said she was the foster mother of Lancelot and raised him beneath the waters of her lake after the death of his father, King Ban of Benoic.

Lady Lake MerlinMerlin Loved Her

Merlin is said to have fallen madly in love with the Lady of the Lake.

According to the Lancelot-Grail cycle (also known as the Vulgate cycle), Viviane refused to give Merlin her love until he taught her all his secrets. Once she had learned his magic, she then used her power to trap him. In some stories, she trapped him in the trunk of a tree, in others, he is beneath a stone.

Merlin even had the power of foresight to know what was going to happen, but he was unable to stop himself. He continued to teach her his secrets until she finally entraps him. 

Why Did She Entrap Him?

In early versions of the story, she entraps Merlin because of her hatred for him.

Later versions, as in Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur she does so because Merlin would not leave her alone. He was in love with her, though she did not love him back. She tired of his sexual advances, and was also so afraid of his power that she felt that she had no other choice. She traps him so he cannot escape.

Lady Lake ExcaliburExcalibur

In the Post-Vulgate cycle, the Lady of the Lake is called Ninianne. Here is where the story of the sword Excalibur was first bestowed upon Arthur.

When Arthur and Merlin first meet the Lady of the Lake, she holds the sword Excalibur out of the water. She offers it to Arthur so long as he promises to fulfill a request from her later, which of course, he agrees.

Sir Balin

Later, the Lady of the Lake comes to Arthur’s court to receive her end of the bargain. She asks for the head of Sir Balin. She blames Sir Balin for her brother’s death. Balin, in turn blames her for the death of his mother. Arthur refused this request, and Balin beheads her instead, much to Arthur’s distress.

Lady Lake PelliasSir Pelleas

When Sir Pelleas was rejected by Ettard–the woman he loved– the Lady of the Lake took care of him. She and Pelleas fell in love and were married. She became the mother to his son, Guivret.

According to Malory, she acted as an obedient wife, and also as an advisor to the court by subtly helping sway the court in the right direction. She was also a compassionate, clever, strong-willed, and sympathetic character. She is pragmatic, unflappable and knowledgeable.

Return of Excalibur

After the Battle of Camlann, the final battle of King Arthur, the Lady of the Lake reclaimed Excalibur. 

Arthur commanded Bevidere to throw Excalibur into the lake to fulfill the prophecy written on the blade. The sword was so magnificent, he couldn’t do it. He hid it behind a tree believing Arthur wouldn’t know what he had done.

When he returned to the king, Arthur asked him what he saw when he threw the sword in the lake. Bevidere said he saw nothing, and Arthur knew immediately he was lying. He ordered him once more and again, Bevidere disobeyed by throwing his own sword into the lake. 

Bevidere once again, told Arthur he saw nothing. Arthur orders him a third time to throw Excalibur into the lake.

Finally, he threw Excalibur into the middle of the lake. An arm rose out of the water, right up to the elbow, and caught the sword. It brandished the blade three times before disappearing into the lake. 

Nimue arrived not long after Bevidere returned the sword to the lake, along with Morgan le Fay, the Queen of Northgales and Queen of the Waste lands. They took took Arthur, wounded and near death, to Avalon for healing.

Lady Lake Excalibur2

 

Thanks for reading!

Jo-Ann