Fairy Witch of Clonmel

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metamorphosing into animals and destroying the homes of mortals.

Gowdie said the fairies manufactured their poisonous elf-arrow heads (see ELF ARRows) in their caverns, and she had seen the Devil working alongside them, putting the finishing touches on the flints. Fairies taught her how to fly, by mounting cornstraws and beanstalks and crying, "Horse and Hattock, in the Devil's name!"

As late as 1894 beliefs in fairies and witches in Ireland caused the murder of Bridget Cleary of Clonmel, who was accused by her own husband and family of being a changeling wife. The trials of Michael Cleary and Bridget's relatives were Ireland's last involving witchcraft (see Fairy Witch of Clonmel).

Many contemporary Witches believe in fairies and some see them clairvoyantly. Some Witches say their Craft was passed down from fairies through the generations of their families.


Briggs, K. M. The Fairies in Tradition and Literature. London:

Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978. Briggs, Katharine. An Encyclopedia of Fairies. New York: Pantheon, 1976.

Evans-Wentz, W. Y. The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries. 1911.

Reprint, Secaucus, N.J.: University Books, 1966. Scott, Sir Walter. Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft. 1884.

Reprint, New York: Citadel Press, 1968. Yeats, W. B. Irish Fairy and Folk Tales. 1892. Reprint, New York: Dorset Press, 1986.

fairy light See JACK-o'-LANTERN.

fairy ring A natural mushroom fungus that grows in dark rings on grass and turf. In folklore it is said to be the site where FAIRIEs and witches meet at night to dance and sing. The mushroom is inedible—and animals tend to shun it—and has a reddish, buff or tawny cap. It is common in Europe, the British Isles and North America and often appears after heavy rains. In Britain, fairy rings also are known as hag tracks, in the belief that they are created by the dancing feet of witches.

Because fairies are associated with MAGIC, fairy rings have magical superstitions attached to them. It is said that if one stands in the center of a fairy ring under a full Moon and makes a wish, the wish will come true. If one wishes to see and hear the fairies, who often are beyond the awareness of the five senses, one can run around a fairy ring nine times under a full moon. However, superstition holds, it is dangerous to do so on Samhain (All Hallow's Eve) or Beltane (May Eve), two major festivals of fairies (and witches), as the fairies may take offense and carry the mortal off to Fairyland.

Fairy rings are still associated with natural magic and are used by contemporary Witches as sites for meetings and seasonal festivals (see WHEEL of THE YEAR.)

Fairies also are said to dance around stone circles.

Further READING:

Briggs, Katherine. An Encyclopedia of Fairies. New York: Pantheon, 1976.

Fairy Witch of Clonmel (1894) A young woman named Bridget Cleary, of Clonmel, County Tipperary, who was tortured and burned to death because her husband believed the fairies had spirited her away and substituted in her place a witch changeling.

Changelings are sickly fairy infants that fairies leave in the place of the human babies they are said to kidnap. However, many stories exist of fairies kidnapping mortal men and women—especially women—to be spouses of fairies in Fairyland.

Sometime in March 1894 Michael Cleary, a man who may have suffered from mental disturbances, began to think something was strange about his 26-year-old wife, Bridget. She seemed more refined. She suddenly appeared to be two inches taller. Cleary, whose mother had acknowledged going off with fairies, immediately suspected foul play by the "little people." He confronted his wife and accused her of being a changeling. When she denied it, he began to torture her with the help of three of her cousins, James, Patrick and Michael Kennedy; her father, Patrick Boland; her aunt, Mary Kennedy; and two local men named John Dunne and William Ahearne.

The townsfolk of Clonmel noticed that Bridget was missing for several days. Hearing that Bridget was sick, a neighbor, Johanna Burke, tried to pay a visit but found the door to the house barred. She encountered William Simpson and his wife, neighbors who also were attempting to pay a visit but were not admitted to the house. The three looked in a window and eventually convinced Cleary to let them in.

The neighbors were aghast to see Bridget, clad only in nightclothes, held spread-eagled on the bed by the Kennedy boys and Dunne, while Boland, Ahearne and Mark Kennedy looked on. Michael Cleary was attempting to coerce his wife into drinking a mixture of milk and herbs (probably a fairy antidote), saying, "Take it, you witch." Cleary repeatedly asked her, "Are you Bridget Boland, wife of Michael Cleary, in the name of God?" Bridget kept crying, "Yes, yes," but Cleary did not seem to believe her. Dunne suggested holding her over the kitchen fire, which Cleary and Patrick Kennedy did, while Bridget writhed and screamed and begged the visitors in vain for help. In fairy lore, setting fire to someone is considered a failproof way to expose changelings and induce the fairy parents to return the stolen human.

Bridget continued to insist that she was Bridget Bo-land, wife of Michael Cleary, and finally was put to bed. Everyone except Cleary seemed satisfied that Bridget was not a witch changeling.

The next day, Cleary approached William Simpson and asked to borrow a revolver, explaining that Bridget was with the fairies at Kylegranaugh Hill, a fairy fort, and

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