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their abodes in “grassy glades,” and on sunny knolls, so the Ellyllon frequented the rock and the mountain ; and woe betide the luckless wight who encountered those merry and mischievous sprites in a mist ! for they had a very inconvenient practice of seizing an unwary pilgrim, and of hurrying him through the air ;--first, giving him the option, however, of travelling above wind, under wind, or below wind. If he chose the former, he was borne to the region, with which Mr. Graham has recently become familiar in his balloon; if the latter, he had the full benefit of all the brakes, briars, and bogs in his way - his reiterated contact with which, seldom failed to terminate in his discomfiture. Experienced travellers, therefore, always kept in mind the prudent advice of Apollo to Phaëton, in medio tutissimus,) and selected the middle course, which ensured them a pleasant voyage at a moderate elevation, equally free from the brambles and the clouds Dafydd ab Gwilym, (the British Ovid,) who was contemporary with Chaucer, in a humourous description which he gives of his own abduction in one of these unlucky mists, says
“ Yr ydoedd ym mhob gobant,
There were in every
and then proceeds to detail the mishaps which befell him, and which were all, no doubt, referable to the mischievous freaks of the Ellyllon. In addition to these propensities, they were gifted with all the attributes—whatever they may be of other elves, and never failed to exercise their malicious powers whenever an opportunity occurred.*
We have already intimated, that it is not our intention, on the present occasion, to enter very fully into the origin and rise of any of
of the superstitions we may notice; but the universal influence of a belief in Fairies in all European countries, has tempted us to offer a few observations on the supposed foundation of the superstition in our own country.
Our simple ancestors had reduced all their whimsical notions respecting these fabulous beings to a system as consistent and regular as many parts of the Heathen mythology; a sufficient proof of the extensive influence and great antiquity of the superstition. Mankind, indeed, and more especially the common people, could not have been so unanimously agreed concerning these arbitrary notions, had they not prevailed among them for many ages. So ancient, indeed, is the superstition, that so far as regards its origin among the Saxons, we can only discover, that long before this people left their German forests, they believed in a kind of diminutive demons or spirits, which they denominated Duergar, or Dwarfs, and to which they attributed many wonderful performances, far above all human art and capability. These attributes did not degenerate as they floated down the stream of time, and for a long time they were implicitly believed by the simple and untutored peasantry. In a fine old song, attributed by Peck to Ben Jonson, although not to be found among that author's collected works, we have a tolerably succinct account, and at all events a very amusing one, of the credited capacities of the Fairy tribe. We quote a few of the verses : Robin Goodfellow loquitur :
* Cambro Briton, vol. i. p.
“ More swift than lightning can I fly
About this aëry welkin soone,
There's not a hag
Or ghost shall wag,
But Robin I
Their feates will spye
Whene'er such wanderers I meete,
As from their night-sportes they trudge home;
Through woodes, through lakes,
Through bogges, through brakes;
All in the nicke,
To play some tricke,
Sometimes I meete them like a man;
Sometimes an ox, sometimes a hound;
But if to ride
More swift than winde away I go,
O'er hedge and lands,
Through pools and ponds,
When lads and lasses merry be,
With possets and rich juncates fine,
And to make sport
I puff and snort,
The maids I kiss;
They shrieke—who's this!
Yet, now and then, the maids to please,
At midnight I card up their wool;
I grind at mill
Their malt up still,
If any walke,
And would me talke,
When men do traps and engines set
In loopholes where the vermines creepe;
I spy the gin,
And enter in,
But when they theare
Approach me neare,
In the earlier ages, fairies were undoubtedly subservient to no earthly power ; but as men became more enlightened, the influence of the sorcerers extended, in some measure, to them, as well as to the more vulgar and debased sorts of spirits. In the Ashmolean MSS. there is a recipe for the conjuration of fairies, which will probably remind our readers of the incantations applied to witches. It is used by an Alchemist (we cannot tell with what success) who wanted the fairy to assist him in the grand scheme of transmuting metals.
“ An excellent waie to gett a Fayrie :
“ First, gett a broad square christall, or Venice glasse, in length and breadth three inches. Then lay that glasse or christall in the bloude of a white henne, three Wednesdayes or three Fridayes. Then take it out, and wash it with holie aq.: and fumigate it. Then take three hazel stickes, or wandes, of a yeare groth : pill them faire and white; and make (them) so longe, as you write the spiritt's or fairie's name, which
you call three times, on every sticke, being made flat on one side. Then burye them under some hill, whereas you suppose fairies haunt, the Wednesdaye before you call her. And the Fridaye following take them uppe, and call her at eight, or ten, or three of the clocke, which be good planetts and houres for that turne; but when you call, be cleane in life, and turne thy face towards the East; and when you have her (sc. the fairy) bind her to that stone or glasse."
We have already observed, that the origin of fairies among the Saxons is involved in obscurity. Bourne, however, supposes the superstition to have been handed down by tradition from the Lamiæ of antiquity, who were esteemed so mischievous and cruel as to steal young children and devour them : these, he says, together with the fauns, seem to have formed the notion of fairies. Others reduce them from the Lares and Larvæ of the Romans; and others, again, conjecture that these diminutive aërial people were imported into Europe by the Crusaders from the East, as in some respects they resemble the Oriental Genii. The Arabs and Persians, indeed, whose religion and history abound with relations concerning them, have assigned to them a peculiar country, and called it fairy-land.* But these hypotheses are unsupported by any conclusive evidence, and are merely, as all such speculations necessarily must be,--the vague conjectures of a fanciful imagination.
But although we cannot, with any degree of accuracy, trace the origin of fairies, among the Saxons, to any precise period, we may be more fortunate with regard to the Britons, among whom they were certainly indigenous, and of a very ancient standing. Their existence is alluded to by the oldest of the British Bards; and Taliessin and Merddin make frequent mention of the two species we have noticed; the one fixing their
* Brand's Popular Antiquities, vol. ïi. p. 327.
abodes in glades and green meadows; the other frequenting mountains and deep woods. That their origin can be deduced from the Druids is, we conceive, more than probable. The fairy customs are so systematic and general, that they evidently indicate the operations of a body of people, existing in the kingdom, distinct from its own inhabitants, acting in concert, and compelled to live mysteriously. * All their actions are those of a consistent and regular policy, instituted to prevent discovery, as well as to inspire fear of their power, and a high opinion of their beneficence. Accordingly, tradition notes, that to attempt to discover them, was to incur certain destruction.
They are fairies," says the gallant Falstaff; " he that works on them shall die.” They were not to be impeded in ingress or egress; a bowl of milk was to be placed for them at night on the hearth ; and, in return, they left a small present in money, if the house was kept clean; if not, they inflicted some punishment on the negligent, which, as it was death to look upon them, the offenders were obliged to endure, and no doubt many mischievous tricks were played upon these occasions. Their general dress was green, that they might be the better concealed ; and as their children might have betrayed their haunts, they were permitted to go out only in the night time, and to entertain themselves by dancing in the moon-light. These dances, like those about the May-pole, were performed round a tree, and on an elevated spot, beneath which was probably their habitation, or its entrance. The older persons mixed as much as they dared with the world ; and if they happened to be at any time recognised, the certainty of their vengeance was their preservation.
A particular spot on the summit of the celebrated Merionethshire mountain, Cader Idris, is believed to have been, in times of yore, the scene of many a fairy revel. It is marked by an irregular inclosure of stone, the remains, as it would seem, of some ancient tumulus, or carnedd; and tradition has fondly bestowed upon it the appellation of Bedd Idris, or the grave of Idris. Since the death of the princely guardian of this rocky fortress, this lonely spot has become doubly hal
* Dr. Owen Pughe, whose extensive knowledge of the ancient literature of Wales entitles his opinion to particular notice, observes, that this imaginary race were anciently supposed to be the manes of those Druids, who were neither of sufficient purity for a celestial abode, nor of sufficient depravity for the society of infernals, on which account they remained on earth until the day of final retribution, when they were to be transferred to a superior state of existence. Cambro Briton, vol. i. p. 348. Note.