Some maintained a guerilla warfare against invaders. The legends of Robin Hood and Rob Roy may be related to fairy lore.
The elusive fairy races were regarded with suspicion and superstition by the larger races and gradually became endowed in popular belief with magical attributes and characteristics. These races, such as the Lapps, Picts and Romano-British-Iberian peoples, were not so small as to be unable to mingle with the Celts, Normans and Saxons. Many were made into servants and serfs, while some married and mixed bloodlines. Prior to the 13th century, having fairy blood was admired.
Of the four main ideas, the latter two may be most likely: the small races became identified as fairies and were ascribed the supernatural abilities and characteristics of nature spirits in lore.
Fairy lore. Physical characteristics of fairies vary. Some are tiny, winged, gossamer creatures a few inches tall who can alight on a drop of water and barely make it tremble. Some are dwarfs and "little people" barely smaller than mortals. Others are giants. Fairies are both ugly and beautiful. They are usually mischievous and unpredictable and must be placated by gifts of food and spotlessly clean houses. The superstitious refer to them as "the good people" or "the good neighbors" in order to stay in the fairies' good graces.
When won over by a mortal, fairies may be very generous with gifts, either material or psychic such as clairvoyance or the ability to heal. Some are evil and malevolent. Many are lascivious and enjoy seducing mortals; some even marry mortals. In general, it is considered bad luck to talk about fairies and their activities. To do so invites a beating from them and the instantaneous disappearance of all the gifts bestowed by the fairies, such as wealth and possessions, and even the fairy lovers or spouses themselves.
Fairies are nocturnal creatures and like to drink, dance and sing. Their music is exquisite. Their color is green, which is also identified with witches. Green clothing perhaps helps them to blend into their forests; some are said to have green skin. They keep many animals, including dogs, cattle and sheep, which usually are red and white in color, but they do not keep cats or fowl. In Irish folklore, cats are regarded as fairies, generally as evil ones. The crowing of cocks drives away fairies, as well as witches and demons.
Like the Fates, fairies love to visit the newborn babies of mortals and will not hesitate to steal those that are unbaptized, or "little pagans," substituting in their place changelings—wizened fairy children. Fairies particularly desire fair-haired children, to improve their own hairy stock. To protect infants against kidnapping by fairies, an open pair of iron scissors traditionally was hung over them in the cradle—for iron is believed to repel fairies— or an iron pin was stuck in their clothes. Other measures included laying the trousers of the child's father across the cradle; drawing a circle of fire around the cradle; making a sign of the cross over the child; sprinkling it and the cradle with holy water; and giving it a nickname. The latter relates to beliefs in the magic power of names (see NAMES of power). If fairies do not know the true name of a child, they will not be able to cast a magical spell over it. In lore, witches were said to collude with fairies to steal babies or children for money, infants who were ugly, retarded or unruly were written off as changelings. It was believed that the changelings could be induced to confess if they were set afire, and many babies may have died that way.
In the early Middle Ages, fairies were said to be visible to all. As time went on, they acquired more and more supernatural powers and became invisible to all but those with second sight. Fairies who were captured by mortals were said to pine away and die quickly if they could not escape. Mortals who visited Fairyland, an enchanted land beneath the ground, discovered that time passes very slowly for fairies: what seemed like a few days translated into years when the mortals returned to the physical world.
Some fairies were said to suck human blood like vampires. On the Isle of Man, it was believed that if water was not left out for them, they would suck the blood of the sleepers in the house or bleed them and make a cake with the blood. The fairies would then leave some of the blood cake hidden in the house; it had to be found and given to the sleepers to eat, or they would die of a sleeping sickness. (See Horned Women for a description of blood cakes attributed to witches.)
Fairies and witches. According to British anthropologist Margaret A. Murray and others, real "little people" gradually became identified with witches. In the 16th and 17th centuries, when fairy beliefs were at their height, fairies and witches were often blended together. Both could cast and break spells, heal people and divine lost objects and the future. Both danced and sang beneath a full moon— often together—and trafficked with the Devil. Both could change shape, fly, levitate and cause others to levitate (see metamorphosis; flying; LEVITATIon). Both stole unbap-tized children and poisoned people. Both stole horses at night and rode them hard to their SABBATS, returning them exhausted by dawn. Both avoided SALT and both were repelled by iron. JAMES I of England, in Daemonolo-gie, his book about witches, called DIANA, the goddess of witches, the "Queen of Faerie." Oberon, the name of the King of Fairies, was also the name of a demon summoned by magicians. Fairies were said to be the FAMILIARS of witches. It is no surprise, then, that fairies figured in numerous witch trials. Those richest in detail took place in the British Isles.
In 1566 John Walsh of Dorset was accused of witchcraft. He admitted being able to tell if a person was bewitched, a gift bestowed upon him partly by fairies, he said. The
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