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p. 59



HE belief in fairies was all but universal. Some imagined them to be fallen angels, whose sin was not so great as theirs who were cast into the bottomless pit. They were believed to dwell inside green sunny hillocks and knolls, beside a river, a stream, or a lake, or by the sea-braes, in gorgeous palaces furnished with everything that was bright and beautiful. They had wells, too, called "fairy wells." All that paid a visit to such wells left something in them--a pin, a button. Such wells seem to have been different from those having a curative power.

The fairies were under the rule of a queen. Commonly they appeared to man as men and women of small stature, dressed in green.

The name of fairy was not pleasing to them, and men spoke of them as "the fair folk," or "the gueede neebours." They were not ill-disposed towards men. Still they were inclined to be frolicsome towards them and to tease them, and there was need to guard against their frolic and trick. One sovereign guard against their power, in every form, was a stone arrow--"a fairy dairt" or "elf-shot"--which must be kept under lock and key.

If a dwelling-house had unluckily been built on a spot inhabited by the fairies, its inmates were liable to much annoyance from them. In such a house, their favourite time of coming forth was in the gloamin, when the inmates were quietly seated round the blazing hearth, before the lamp was lighted for the evening's work. In that still hour, sometimes, if the spinning-wheel was not in use at the fireside, and the driving-band had not been taken off the wheel the sound of it going fast and furious was

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heard, and at other times, if one had peered round without the least noise, the eye caught the merry creatures frolicking on the floor, or over the furniture, peeping into this dish and into that, into this nook and into that. If the inmates had to leave the house and shut the door in the quiet gloaming for a time, "the fair folk" came forth in all their glee, and gave themselves to all kinds of noise-making. If the door was opened quickly and quietly they were seen scampering off in all directions--to the rafters, to the garret, up the "lum," and out by the door--whizz, whizz, quick as lightning. But their frolics were not confined to that particular hour. Some of them were always out, and no woman would have risen from her spinning-wheel and gone outside, if there was no one left in the house, without first taking the driving-band off the wheel, and no prudent woman would have left the band on the wheel over night. If the band had not been taken off, a fairy set to work and spun with might and main the whole night. Meal-mills had also to be thrown out of gear at night, else the fairies would have set them on, and kept them going during night.

"The fair folk" were most covetous of new-born children and their mothers. Till the mothers were "sained" and churched, and the children were baptised, the most strict watch and ward had to be kept over them to keep them from being stolen. Every seven years they had to pay "the teind to hell," and to save them from paying this tribute with one of themselves they were ever on the alert to get hold of human infants.

"There came a wind oot o’ the north,
  A sharp wind and a snell;
And a dead sleep came over me,
  And frae my horse I fell;
The Queen of Fairies she was there,
  And took me to hersel.

And never would I tire, Janet,
  In fairyland to dwell,
But aye, at every seven years
  They pay the teind to hell;
And though the Queen macks much o’ me
  I fear ’twill be mysel."

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Sometimes they succeeded in carrying off an unbaptised infant, and for it they left one of their own. The one left by them soon began to "dwine," and to fret and cry night and day. At times the child has been saved from them as they were carrying it through the dog-hole1

A fisherwoman had a fine thriving baby. One day what looked like a beggar woman entered the house. She went to the cradle in which the baby was lying, and handled it under pretence of admiring it. From that day the child did nothing but fret and cry and waste away. This had gone on for some months, when one day a beggar man entered asking alms. As he was getting his alms his eye lighted upon the infant in the cradle. After looking on it for some time he said, "That's nae a bairn; that's an image; the bairn's been stoun." He immediately set to work to bring back the child. He heaped up a large fire on the hearth, and ordered a black hen to be brought to him. When the fire was blazing at its full strength, he took the hen and held her over the fire as near it as possible, so as not to kill her. The bird struggled for a little, then escaped from the man's grasp, and flew out by the "lum." The child was restored, and throve every day afterwards.

Another. A strong healthy boy in the parish of Tyrie began to "dwine." The real baby had been stolen. A wise woman gave the means of bringing him back. His clothes were to be taken to a south-running well, washed, laid out to dry beside the well, and most carefully watched. This was done for some time, but no one came to take them away. The next thing to be done was to take the child himself and lay him between two furrows in a cornfield. This was carried out, and the child throve daily afterwards. All this was annoying to the "fair folk," and rather than submit to such annoyance they restored the child, and took back their own one.

One day a fisherwoman with her baby was left a-bed alone, when in came a little man dressed in green. He proceeded at once to lay bold of the baby. The woman knew at once who

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the little man was and what he intended to do. She uttered the prayer, "God be atween you an me." Out rushed the fairy in a moment, and the woman and her baby were left without further molestation.

Milk, particularly human milk, was very grateful to them. Therefore was it they were so anxious to carry off unsained and unchurched mothers. According to tradition, they did at times get hold of them. Here is one tradition. A mother was spirited away. In a short time, notwithstanding all the kindness and attention lavished on her by the "fair folk," her strength was almost exhausted. She pleaded to be allowed to return to earth, and pledged herself to give the best mare under milk that her husband had. Her request was granted, and the mare was led to the fairy hillock and left. The animal disappeared, and after a time returned, but so lean and weak that she was hardly able to sustain her own weight. Here is another. A man in the parish of New Deer was returning home at night. On reaching an old quarry much overgrown with broom he heard a great noise coining from among the broom. He listened, and his ear caught the words "Mak’ it red cheekit an red lippit like the smith o’ Bonnykelly's wife." He knew at once what was going on, and what was to be done, and he ran with all his speed to the smith's house and "sained" the mother and her baby--an act which the nurse had neglected to do. No sooner was the saining finished than a heavy thud, as if something had fallen, was heard outside the house opposite to the spot where stood the bed on which the mother and her baby lay. On examination a piece of bog-fir was found lying at the bottom of the wall. It was the "image" the fairies were to substitute for the smith's wife.

Sometimes they contrived to induce, by their fair and winning ways, unwary men and women to go with them. When such entered their abodes, every kindness was showered upon them, and the most savoury food and the most delicious wines were set before them in tempting array. If from what they saw they had become aware among whom they were, and had the courage to refuse what was spread before them, they soon found themselves

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back among men. If they yielded, and tasted either the food or the drink, their doom was sealed for at least seven years. All idea of the flight of time was lost by them under the beauty of fairyland and the joy of life in it. When the fairy-thralls did at last return to earth, they found their places filled by others, and the memory of them well-nigh dead. It was only after many explanations the remembrance of them returned to friends and acquaintances, and they themselves came to know how long they had dwelt in fairyland. Such as did return never again took kindly to the works and ways of their fellow-men. They loved the sunny braes, the glens and woods, that lay far from the abodes of men, the quiet spots of daisied sward by the burnie side, the lonely nook of greenery by the margin of the loch, and the green slopes and hollows by the seashore. With dreamy longing eyes, gazing out for something they could not reach, they pined away the rest of their days, beings apart.

If a man or a woman did any one of them a kindness, the labour was not in vain. Gratitude for kindness done by man was one great trait of their character. Some article, whose use healed disease, was given, or virtue to cure disease or lessen pain was imparted, or success over after attended the doer of the kind deed.

They were very often in the habit of borrowing from man. What they borrowed was given back most punctually. Meal was an article they often borrowed, and they always asked a fixed measure, a "hathisch-cogfull." If offered more, they would not take it. This borrowing was made usually in the gloamin, and by the females. In a parish on the east coast of Buchan, one wild night in winter, in the twilight, a little woman, dressed in green, went into a farm kitchen and begged for a "hathisch o’ meal" from the gueedwife. The gueedwife told the beggar that she was somewhat afraid to give away so much, as the stock of meal was almost exhausted, and grain had only just been taken to the mill, and it would be some time before a new stock of meal could be laid in. Besides, the weather was stormy, and everything betokened a long snowstorm. It was said to last thirteen weeks. However the meal was given. Not many days

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after the little woman returned in the twilight, and gave back the meal. At the same time she asked how much meal was in the girnal. On getting an answer that there was not much, she gave strict orders to gather into one corner what remained of it, add to it what she returned for the loan, and always keep it well packed together. She at the same time told that the snowstorm would last thirteen weeks. The storm came down, the roads were blocked, and no meal was got from the mill; yet the meal in the corner of the girnal never grew less, notwithstanding the household had all through the thirteen weeks the usual supply.

But if one put a slight upon them, or in any way incurred their displeasure, they were not slow in taking revenge. A cow or a horse, if the offender had one, was soon "shot-a-dead," or things began to take a wrong turn with the unfortunate, or, if a work was on hand, it did not go on with speed. It was misfortune on all sides.

Even animals could call forth their anger; and, when they did so, they had to pay the penalty. One evening, "atween the sin an the sky," a man was ploughing with his "twal-ousen plew," when a woman came to him, and offered him bread and cheese and ale. The man took the gift. Whilst he was enjoying his repast the good woman proceeded to give each of the oxen a piece of cakes. One by one the oxen took what was given, except the "wyner." After partaking of the woman's kindness, and she had left, the ploughman began his work again. All went on as usual till the plough reached the end of the furrow, when the "wyner," that had refused to take the piece of cakes from the hands of the stranger, fell down, and broke his neck, as he was turning into the next furrow. The stranger was a fairy.

The "fair folk" were most skilled in music, and when mortals were stolen and taken to their abodes, or beguiled into them, one, of the great enchantments and allurements to stay with them was their music. But that music was not confined to their own dwellings. Often and again has it been heard by human ears in the quiet of the gloamin, or at the still hour of midnight, in the clear moonlight, now on this green hillock, now below this bridge, and now in this calm nook.

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The fairies took to fishing in little boats of their own. When fishing, they wore their usual green, with little red caps for headdress. They prosecuted their labour in the fine summer mornings and evenings, and many a time have the fishermen seen them busy as they were going to sea, and returning from it.

If the sun shone during the time a shower of rain was falling, it was believed and said that the fairies were baking their bread. When bread was baked in a family the cakes must not be counted. Fairies always ate cakes that had been counted; they did not last the ordinary time.

The whirlwind that raises the dust on roads is called "a furl o’ fairies' ween." 1


61:1 Cf. F. L. Record, vol. i. p. 235.

65:1 Cf. F. L. Record, vol. i. pp. 26-29, and 229-231, and Henderson, p. 277.

Next: Chapter XII. Waterkelpie