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|Today we think of fairies as good. This was not always the case. Join us was we travel back in time to see what our ancestors thought of them. In the video we will learn how to guard ourselves against their magic. We also meet some people who claimed to have seen real fairies.|
About The Video
Nowadays, if you were to ask people what they thought about fairies, they would probably say that they are nice and good natured creatures.
This view of fairies has not always been the case, in the past our ancestors saw them very differently. They thought of fairies as menacing beings, to be feared. This rather humorous video takes a look at the folklore of fairies.
Bad Things Fairies Do
Some of the tricks that fairies were supposed to play on humans were just a bit mischievous. What today we might call pranks. When you wake with your hair tangled these were called elf-locks. Another bit of fun fairies had would be to make you loose your bearings, when you were out, making you lost.
When little things went missing, this was blamed on fairies. It was also believed that fairies would ride on animals, and that this could make them ill.
A lot of fairy stories are about changelings. Changelings are fairy children that are left in place of human babies.
It is not just children that fairies were supposed to abduct, older people could also be taken. In particular risk were women who had just given birth. No one was sure about the fate of people taken by fairies, some believed that they lived a happy life, others thought that they became sad and pined for their lost family and friends.
Ideas About Where Fairies Come From
One idea that was popular, was that fairies were the dead, or some form of the dead. Today we could well call them ghosts. Another belief was that fairies were some form of an ancient and immortal creature.
There was a theory that fairies were "demoted angels". One story is that when a group of angels revolted, God ordered heaven's gates to be closed. Those who were in heaven stayed as angels, those who were in hell became devils, and the rest of the angels became fairies.
Another idea is that fairies were really just demons or devils. So if you were suspected of having contact with fairies, you could be accused of witchcraft. If you were found guilty of witchcraft, this would mean a very unpleasant fate!
More Ideas About Fairies
It was mostly agreed that fairies looked very similar to humans, but that they were blessed with magical powers.
A full moon seemed to be a time that fairies were most active. Fairies would come out and loved to dance in the light of the moon.
No one was quite sure where fairies lived, but it was often thought that fairies lived underground, buried in hills. Another suspected trick that fairies could perform was to be able to change their appearance, turning into animals such as birds, toads or butterflies. Today we call this magical trick "shape shifting".
Things To Avoid
If you were to meet fairies, it was advised not to look them straight in the eye, and also to avoid thanking or talking about them.
It was thought that fairies were very vain, so it was not a very good idea to make any comments about them being ugly, which was probably why it was advised not to talk about fairies at all.
In past times you would be very careful not to disturb fairies. Two very important things to avoid were digging in fairy hills, and making sure that if you chopped down a tree, that it didn't belong to a fairy.
If you house blocked a fairy track, then the advice was to leave your front and back doors open, to allow the fairies to still be able to use their paths. Another tip was if you were ever entertained by fairies to avoid eating their food. If you ate fairy food it was believed that they may abduct you.
Another piece of advice was to be careful about accepting gifts or payment from fairies. Fairies could use magic to change the appearance of items. One typical example is to beware of fairy gold. It might look like gold, but it will quickly change back to something worthless.
One particular gift not to give fairies was clothes, but if for some reason you did give fairies clothes, then it was advised to make sure they were of good quality. It was also thought that fairies were not happy with misers.
Protection From Fairies
If you thought you had fairies living in your house, it was strongly advised to keep it clean and tidy. If the fairies considered your house dirty or untidy, they would take revenge by playing tricks on you, such as tweaking you when asleep.
A rather strange protection was to wear your clothes inside out. Another more traditional way to keep yourself safe was to find and keep a four leafed clover.
Cold iron was considered the most potent form of defence against fairies. It was like poison to them and they would keep well away from it. Salt was another item that was used to keep fairies at bay.
There were other items that it was believed that fairies hated, including bread and running water. It was also thought they feared the sound of bells, especially church bells.
Finally, after learning about all these protections, there is one last piece of advice to leave you with. If you take a baby out late at night, put some bread in its clothes, to protect the child from being abducted by fairies.
People Who Claim To Have Seen Fairies
William Blake was a poet and an artist. He work was rather mystical and sometimes he painted fairies.
William Blake also claimed to have seen fairies. This conversation is recorded by Allan Cunningham in his "Lives Of Eminent British Painters".
"Did you ever see a fairy's funeral, madam?" said Blake to a lady who happened to sit next to him.
"Never, Sir!" said the lady.
"I have," said Blake, "but not before last night."
And he went on to tell how, in his garden, he had seen "a procession of creatures of the size and colour of green and grey grasshoppers, bearing a body laid out on a rose-leaf, which they buried with songs, and then disappeared".
However, many people think that William Blake was a bit mad, so maybe he made it up.
The Cottingley Fairies
In 1917, two cousins, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths took 2 pictures of fairies. At the time Elsie Wright was 16 years old and Frances Griffiths 10 years old. The photographs were taken next to a small stream at the bottom of the garden of the house where the two girls lived.
Within a couple of years the images became public, and opinions were divided as to their authenticity. Even Elsie Wright's parents disagreed, her father thought they were fakes, whereas her mother believed they were real.
At this time Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the famous author of Sherlock Holmes, heard of the photographs. Conan Doyle, a great believer in spiritualism, borrowed copies of the images and showed them to colleagues, who mainly thought they were fakes. As the family seemed very "honest and respectable" it was decided to persuade the two girls to take some more photographs, with a camera provided to them. This would then prove the truth.
On Thursday, 19 August 1920, the girls took two more pictures with the final one taken two days later. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was now a believer and wrote articles, and based a book on the images.
Over the years there was much debate, but eventually in 1981 the two, who were then elderly ladies, admitted they were fakes.
However, right until her death Frances Griffiths maintained that there were indeed fairies at the end of the garden. She also said that the fifth picture was not fake!
In 1985 talking of the incident Elsie Wright said:
"Two village kids and a brilliant man like Conan Doyle - well, we could only keep quiet."
In the same interview Frances Griffiths stated:
"I never even thought of it as being a fraud - it was just Elsie and I having a bit of fun and I can't understand to this day why they were taken in - they wanted to be taken in."
Although the two girls may have been slightly naughty, we should forgive them for their little lie, and maybe there really were fairies at the bottom of their garden.
Cutting Room Floor
The Cottingley Fairies
Here are the other three photographs that Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths took of fairies at the bottom of their garden.