by Mark Turner
Small people with magical abilities have been passed on around the globe for generations. Sometimes they are viewed near a hill or in a clearing, often dancing, feasting and having a grand ‘ole time. The human visitor who encounters the strange, beguiling scene, cannot pull themselves away and is often invited by the little people to join in the merriment. However, once you enter the fairy realm, you may never return. Though they may seem to be part of a mythical past, there are some that argue that the fairies were and are very real, and that they have flesh and blood offspring living alongside humans.
Sometime ago in the Welsh countryside, on Halloween two men not familiar with the area, were invited into a house where small people were seen dancing, drinking and singing by the fire. The travelers entered but when both men were offered to drink, one of the men refused. He knew the tricks of small people, and begged his friend to leave with him. The man only laughed and stayed as his worried friend left in haste while his friend took the drink from the cup that was offered. Invited to dance, he joined them. Outside though a window, his departing friend saw his traveling partner dancing by the fire. He took off into the night and returned the next morning, only to find that the home had vanished. Time passed and the man who entered the home was never heard from again. The next Halloween, however, returning to the very spot where he last saw his friend and with a sudden gust of wind he saw the home reappear! Inside he could see his friend, still dancing with the little people to the rhythm of their intoxicating music, as if time had stood still and not passed for a single minute. Then the home vanished, only to be seen again on the following Halloween. The man who is dancing doesn’t feel the passing of time, he does not know that he is a prisoner… but the fairies know.
This is just one of many tales of the fairy-kind’s ability to confuse and whisk away unsuspecting human folk.
Where do they come from? The fairies are said to inhabit the air, make homes in earthen mounds (or fairy mounds), and they are said to live within the earth, in what J.R.R. Tolkien might have called Middle Earth. The early Celts believed that the natural world around them; trees, rocks, bodies of water, were alive with spirits – elemental forces that were unfriendly to the race of men and were always conspiring to do us harm unless the proper offerings and prayers were made. With the introduction of Christianity to the deep forests of northern Europe, the idea of the fallen angels mixed with the concept of the fairies. Now they were seen as something that was not altogether godly, nor entirely demonic, condemned to inhabit the earth somewhere in-between heaven and hell, and still holding on to their potent powers of magic.
Though the idea of the fairy in modern times has been diluted to something benign and friendly, or just downright silly, our ancient ancestors held a different view. There are kinder types of sprites or fairy folk. In Scandinavian lore, household fairies or Nisse who are more a kin to mischievous children can help with the household chores and farm work, and can be seen as household guardians. But they can also cause personal items to disappear and then, after looking with much frustration, the lost item will reappear in the spot where the thing should have been in the first place! Modern people might confuse these fairies with ghosts or demons, but people familiar with the lore of the harmless Nisse know better. This idea of a helper spirit was exploited by the witch-hunts’ of the middle ages and the kindly fairies were now considered to be imps or familiars, the demonic pets that the witch employed to do her dirty work. It is now common to look upon the witch hysteria as superstition run amuck, and there is no doubt that there were thousands killed out of superstition and ignorance, but was there a select group of people using the elemental fairy folk to bring about hardship and misfortune for their own uses? And were the fairy folk grinning in the shadows when their witch owner was being tried and executed? Did the witch ever really have full possession of the fairy, or was the creature using the witch?
Vampires, modern UFO grey aliens and fairies have much in common. They are usually seen at night, they abduct people and in the case of the aliens, have the ability to cause ‘missing time’. They can cloud and confuse the minds of simple mortals. Vampires are immortal, aliens are said to live hundreds of years and fairies never die. The modern urban legend of the ‘black eyed children’ and UFO witnesses and experiencers who encounter strange visitors we call the Men in Black, also share some of the more sinister aspects of the little people. Not everyone who encounters these beings lives to tell the tale. And if they did live or are living, then they have not been allowed to return – prisoners in a different dimension, a different realm. There are tales of fairies stealing babies and replacing the child with one of their own fairy children. Often, the swap would not be detected until much later.
The Japanese talk of small humanoid peoples that live underground and are separate from society, living in communities in the outskirts, away from humans. These beings are seen as both physical and non-physical, almost like an elemental life form. The Japanese called their little-people pit-dwellers because of their subterranean homes.
The Germans told stories of the Kobold, small invisible beings that might inhabit a valley or slope, as a kind of nature ‘elemental’ that guarded a certain area. When someone unwittingly entered the domain where the Kobold lived, the person would be violently attacked or even killed. They were said to inhabit mines, scaring the miners by making strange, whispering sounds and eerie noises. The Kobold were know to cause accidents, cave in’s and death. The dangerous gasses that disorientate and sometimes kill miners were said to be the work of the dreaded kobold.
The Native American Cherokee speak of the Nunnehi. Also small and living in caves and inside hills, only surfacing occasionally, and usually only to cause mischief. They often traded with the Cherokee, but were not to be trusted as they had a bad habit of steeling anything they could get their hands on. They too, had the power to make themselves invisible. They were also immortal. (Think of Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit, who’s mother was a fairy, he’s a creature that lives in a hillside, he’s a thief, who has a ring that can render him invisible and who belongs to a race of beings that live way longer than any human ever could.) The Nunnehi were also shapeshifters, having the ability to change their appearance so that they could trick humans. They could be seen as kind, even guiding lost children back to their parents homes, but there were other Nunnehi who were known to kidnap children as well.
These are just a few of the native stories of little people from around the world.
It’s a mistake to think that all fairies are small in stature. Like the elves in the Lord of the Rings, some fairies in olden times were reported to be very tall and slender with long faces and almond shaped eyes. I mention this because there is a belief that has been around for sometime that fairies were a race of real people, living alongside human-beings, but possessing magical powers. Small and slight in appearance, they were extremely attractive to their human cousins. I know someone that believes that they are still around us today, and that some of them are not to be trusted. This person tells me that they know someone that they suspect has fairy blood. This suspected fairy is friendly, yet a slight bit shorter than most, with slender bones. Though not possessing any unique abilities to perform magical acts, I am told that this individual brings bad luck with them whenever they are around. Weird individuals suddenly appear from out of nowhere and stalk or menace, as if attracted by this dark energy.
The belief that fairies might not only have magical, ethereal, ghost-like qualities, but that some human-beings possess this bloodline, or that there are a race of them walking among us, can be dated back to 1890 and earlier when folklorist J.F. Campbell wrote that he believed;
“There was once a small race of people in these (British) islands, who are remembered as fairies, for the fairy belief is not confined to the Highlanders of Scotland. This class of stories is so widely spread, so matter-of-fact, hangs so well together, and is so implicitly believed all over the United Kingdom that I am persuaded of the former existence of a race of men in these islands who were smaller in stature than the Celts; who used stone arrows, lived in conical mounds like the Lapps, knew some mechanical arts, pilfered goods and stole children; and were perhaps contemporary with some species of wild cattle and horses.” Campbell believed them to be small, but there were accounts of encounters with fairy people who were of average human stature. A woman by the name of Joan Tyrrye reported that in 1555, she met a man who was one of them in a market. He carried white rod. She walked up to him to “make an acquaintance of him, and then her sight was taken away for a time.” The temporary blinding of a person seems to have been a common occurrence, or at least a common belief in the power of the fairies. They could do this whenever they did not want to be seen. Other instances of real life sightings were viewed when fairies were making their medicines; “the good neighbors make their salves with pans and fires, and gathered their herbs before the rising sun. A certain Master John Walsh consulted with the fairies in Netherbury, Dorset, in 1566, where he would go among the hills at noon and at midnight. It is said the people would meet fairies and not know it. There were even marriages between humans and fairies.
It is believed that during the times of the Roman invasions into Gaul, that native northern Europeans fled and in doing so, unknowingly uprooted the smaller races of people who lived on the outskirts of these lands. The Europeans, ever on the move to evade the Roman’s, would have found small homes inside of hillside mounds and underground dwellings. That’s one version of the story. A similar tale of displacement deals with an Iron Age people know to us now as the Pict’s of ancient eastern and northern Scotland. These slightly smaller people were documented as late as the 9th century. They were said to live in ‘little houses underground’ and were the size of pygmies. They seem to have been chased away or killed off by Norway’s first king, Harald Haarfagr, or Harald the Fairhair who conquered Orkney, now at Scotland’s Northern tip. The Pict’s are believed to have been Lapps, or the Sami people, commonly referred to as Laplanders’. Were the fairies actually some forgotten tribe of Lapps? John Keel, a famed research of strange stories, most notably his book The Mothman Prophecies, was investigating the stories of the mysterious Men in Black, those odd men that show up after a UFO sighting and harass witnesses. At a lecture, Keel noted that he traveled around with pictures of people of differing nationalities and when interviewing those who an encountered the men in black, he would show the photos to the witness. The one that they usually identified as most closely resembling the men in black was the photo of a Laplander. Like the otherworldly stories of angels or aliens interbreeding with human women, were the Lapps experimented on by strange invaders to make some-sort of hybrid? I’m not saying that Lapps are aliens or fairies, but I am suggesting that perhaps there may have been a breaking off point, where flesh and blood people became less than material and more ethereal?
The man whom we owe a debt to much our folkloric knowledge of the we-people is Reverend Robert Kirk and his; The Secret Commonwealth of Elves Fauns and Fairies. It was Kirk who wrote down the local stories of the fairies, and who gave one of the only proper written accounts of the small beings from times long before his own. Reverend Kirk’s fairy tales were not published until 1815. It could all be passed off as a work of fiction, but allegedly Reverend Kirk actually had met with the fairies on numerous occasions. He took daily walks to a place called Doon Hill, located in Balquihidder Glen in his native Scotland where it is said that he often met and spoke with the little beings. Sometimes laying on the ground, with his ear on the hill, listening to the murmurings of the beings therein. This was also a time of religious intolerance and Rev. Kirk drew criticism from the church for his writings on such pagan subjects as Elves and Fairies.
On May 14th of 1692, Reverend Kirk was making is usual walk to Doon Hill, but he never returned home. He was later found dead on the hill. It was said that the fairies had taken him away, leaving his body behind, and somewhere still, Reverend Kirk lives with the little people in the fairy-realm.
To this very day, the legend of Doon Hill in Scotland persists. In the trees on the top of the massive hill, people tie rages bearing hand written notes – prayers to the fairies. It is said that the small creatures will read your note, and if they are in the mood, they’ll grant you your wish.
Fear of tampering with the little-people and their realms exists even today. In 2002, French born film-maker, Jean-Michel Roux, made a full-length documentary movie titled, Enquête sur le monde invisible, or Investigation into the Invisible World. The film is about modern Icelanders and their beliefs and fears about fairies, elves, trolls and hidden-folk living in the mountainous countryside. In the film, locals fear when road-crews move ancient stones, said to be the homes and sacred places of the elves. When the road-crew began to approach one of the stones, the mechanical digger broke-down. In a local Icelandic television news report, the reporter asks a road-crew worker, a tough looking burly young man, if he keeps his distance from the area. He replies; “Yes, I don’t want to take any risks.” A local medium was contacted and said they could move the stones as long as the work was ‘done carefully.’ The film then jumps to the head of the road office, a man in a shirt and tie, sitting behind a desk surrounded by files and papers. He said they do sometimes contact mediums. Before work begins, a local resident might call them and tell them that elves are living in the area. The medium acts as a go-between to make sure things go smoothly. “We try to keep everyone happy. Like when we have to cross a farmer’s field, sometimes we wait until the elves move on. Such courtesy doesn’t cost the road office much.” The Fairies are seen as nature spirits that do not like it when their lands are tampered with.
In his series of books called Missing 411, David Paulides, a former law enforcement officer, details hundreds of cases of missing people. Missing children, adults, and the elderly. The books deal with baffling disappearances from all over the globe. None of the cases have ever been solved, though the victims sometimes do come-back alive or unfortunately, their lifeless body is found, but no cause can ever be found for why they disappeared, and details surrounding the events are just as bizarre as how the person went missing. Of course there are probably ordinary and mundane reasons for some of these cases, but in a recent radio interview on Coast to Coast AM, he related a story that is like many of the others. A young child goes missing in the middle of the night when it seems almost impossible that the child could have sneaked away. And when they see the family dog, it is acting strange, like it has been spooked by something. Children who do comeback alive report of seeing ‘robots’, or ‘another little girl’ who ‘led her to safety.’ Sometimes adults comeback in a semi-conscious state, a kind of fever that they later come out of.
The fairies, or elves, demons or angles, whatever we might call them, have been alive in our minds and apparently in the material world, seemingly, since the dawn of human-kind. Were they a race of humans that is now gone or interbred with us? Elementals inhabiting sectors of land? House spirits? Figments of the imagination? In World War II, gremlins were seen as being the cause of aircraft equipment problems, and were sometimes made into dolls and used as good luck charms. The recent Disney film starring Angelina Jolie as the Fairy Godmother Maleficent and its big box office opening are a testament to the immortal power of the fairy on our subconscious. Do they come from a different realm or different dimension? Is this what happens to those who go missing, something has pulled them in and they have vanished? Or something came out from that other realm and took them away? The ‘mythology’ of the ancients contains clues, keys to unlocking a mystery of the little-people, and if their legends hold many truths in them. If we should encounter one of these enchanting creatures, who offers us to venture with them to a foreign land, it would be wise to politely decline the invitation.
For more, visit my blog called Mark Turner’s Mysterious World
Story sources: Dark Fairies, by Dr. Bob Curran – New Page Books 2010 Celtic Lore, The History of the Druids and their Timeless Traditions, by Ward Rutherford – Thorsons/Harper Collins 1993 The Witch Book, Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca & Neo-Paganism by Raymond Buckland – Visable Ink Press 2002
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