4. In Wales
Introduction by The Right Hon. SIR JOHN RHYS, M.A.; D.Litt., F.B.A., Hon. LL.D. of the University of Edinburgh; Professor of Celtic in the University of Oxford; Principal of Jesus College; author of Celtic Folklore, Welsh and Manx, etc.
The folklore of Wales in as far as it concerns the Fairies consists of a very few typical tales, such as:
1. The Fairy Dance and the usual entrapping of a youth, who dances with the Little People for a long time, while he supposes it only a few minutes, and who if not rescued is taken by them.
2. There are other ways in which recruits may be led into Fairyland and induced to marry fairy maidens, and any one so led away is practically lost to his kith and kin, for even if he be allowed to visit them, the visit is mostly cut short in one way or another.
3. A man catches a fairy woman and marries her. She proves to be an excellent housewife, but usually she has had put into the marriage-contract certain conditions which, if broken, inevitably release her from the union, and when so released she hurries away instantly, never to return, unless it be now and then to visit her children. One of the conditions, especially in North Wales, is that the husband should never touch her with iron. But in the story of the Lady of Llyn y Fan Fach, in Carmarthenshire, the condition is that he must not strike the wife without a cause three times, the striking being interpreted to include any slight tapping, say, on the shoulder. This story is one of the most remarkable on record in Wales, and it recalls the famous tale of Undine, published in German many years ago by De La Motte Fouqué. It is not known where he found it, or whether the people among whom it was current were pure Germans or of Celtic extraction.
4. The Fairies were fond of stealing nice healthy babies and of leaving in their place their own sallow offspring. The stories of bow the right child might be recovered take numerous forms; and some of these stories suggest how weak and sickly children became the objects of systematic cruelty at the hands of even their own parents. The changeling was usually an old man, and many were the efforts made to get him to betray his identity.
5. There is a widespread story of the fairy husband procuring for his wife the attendance of a human midwife. The latter was given a certain ointment to apply to the baby's eyes when she dressed it. She was not to touch either of her own eyes with it, but owing to an unfailing accident she does, and with the eye so touched she is enabled to see the fairies in their proper shape and form. This has consequences: The fairy husband pays the midwife well, and discharges her. She goes to a fair or market one day and observes her old master stealing goods from a stall, and makes herself known to him. He asks her with which eye she sees him. She tells him, and the eye to which he objects he instantly blinds.
6. Many are the stories about the fairies coming into houses at night to wash and dress their children after everybody is gone to bed. A servant-maid who knows her business leaves a vessel full of water for them, and takes care that the house is neat and tidy, and she then probably finds in the morning some fairy gift left her, whereas if the house be untidy and the water dirty, they will pinch her in her sleep, and leave her black and blue.
7. The fairies were not strong in their household arrangements, so it was not at all unusual for them to come to the farm-houses to borrow what was wanting to them.
(1) Sir John Rhys tells me that this Snowdon fairy-lore was contributed by the late Lady Rhys, who as a girl lived in the neighbourhood of Snowdon and heard very much from the old people there, most of whom believed in the fairies; and she herself then used to be warned, in the manner mentioned, against being carried away into the under-lake Fairyland.
Our field of research in the Land of Arthur includes all the coast counties save Cardiganshire, from Anglesey on the north to Glamorganshire on the south. At the very beginning of our investigation of the belief in the Tylwyth Teg, or "Fair Folk" in the Isle of Anglesey or Mona, the ancient stronghold of the Druids, we shall see clearly that the testimony offered by thoroughly reliable and prominent native witnesses is surprisingly uniform, and essentially animistic in its nature; and in passing southward to the end of Wales we shall find the Welsh Fairy-Faith with this same uniformity and exhibiting the same animistic background everywhere we go.
Testimony of an Anglesey Bard
Mr. John Louis Jones, of Gaerwen, Anglesey, a native bard who has taken prizes in various Eisteddfods, testifies as follows:
Tylwyth Teg's Visits
"When I was a boy here on the island, the Tylwyth Teg were described as a race of little beings no larger than children six or seven years old, who visited farm-houses at night after all the family were in bed. No matter how securely dosed a house might be, the Tylwyth Teg had no trouble to get in.
Fairy Wife and Iron Taboo
"A young man once caught one of the Tylwyth Teg women, and she agreed to live with him on condition that he should never touch her with iron.
Recordings from Central Anglesey
Owing to the very kindly assistance of Mr. E. H. Thomas, of Llangefni, who introduced me to the oldest inhabitants of his town, in their own homes and elsewhere, and then acted as interpreter whenever Welsh alone was spoken, I gleaned very clear evidence from that part of Central Anglesey. Seven witnesses, two of whom were women, ranging in age from seventy-two to eighty-nine years, were thus interviewed, and each of them stated that in their childhood the belief in the Tylwyth Teg as a non-human race of good little people by one witness compared to singing angels was general. Mr. John Jones, the oldest of the seven, among much else, said in Welsh:
Testimony from Two Anglesey Centenarians
Perhaps nowhere else in Celtic lands could there be found as witnesses two sisters equal in age to Miss Mary Owen and Mrs. Betsy Thomas, in their hundred and third and hundredth year respectively (in 1909). They live a quiet life on their mountain-side farm overlooking the sea, in the beautiful country near Pentraeth, quite away from the rush and noise of the great world of commercial activity; and they speak only the tongue which their prehistoric Kimric ancestors spoke before Roman, or Saxon, or Norman came to Britain. Mr. W. Jones, of Plas Tinon, their neighbour, who knows English and Welsh well, acted as interpreter. The elder sister testified first:
"Tylwyth Teg's' Nature
"There were many of the Tylwyth Teg on the Llwydiarth Mountain above here, and and round the Llwydiarth Lake where they used to dance; and whenever the prices at the Llangefni market were to be high they would chatter very much at night. They appeared only after dark; and all the good they ever did was singing and dancing. Ann Jones, whom I knew very well, used often to see the Tylwyth Teg dancing and singing, but if she then went up to them they would disappear. She told me they are an invisible people, and very small. Many others besides Ann Jones have seen the Tylwyth Teg in these mountains, and have heard their music and song. The ordinary opinion was that the Tylwyth Teg are a race of spirits. I believe in them as an invisible race of good little people."
Fairy Midwife and Magic Oil
The Tylwyth Teg had a kind of magic oil, and I remember this story about it.
(1) This is the one tale I have found in North Wales about a midwife and fairies a type of tale common to West Ireland, Isle of Man, Cornwall, and Brittany, but in a reverse version, the midwife there being (as she is sometimes in Welsh versions) one of the human race called in by fairies. if evidence of the oneness of the Celtic mind were needed we should find it here (Cf. pp. 50, 54,127, 175, 182, 205). There are in this type of fairy tale, as the advocates of the Pygmy Theory may well hold, certain elements most likely traceable to a folk-memory of some early race, or special class of some early race, who knew the secrets of midwifery and the use of medicines when such knowledge was considered magical. But in each example of this midwife story there is the germ idea no matter what other ideas cluster round it that fairies, like spirits, are only to be seen by an extra. human vision, or, as psychical researchers might say, by clairvoyance.
Seeing "Tylwyth Teg"
The younger sister's testimony is as follows:
Testimony from an Anglesey Seeress
At Pentraeth, Mr. Gwilyn Jones said to me: "It always was and still is the opinion that the Tylwyth Teg are a race of spirits. Some people think them small in size, but the one my mother saw was ordinary human size."
"Tylwyth Teg" Apparition
I was coming home at about half-past ten at night from Cemaes, on the path to Simdda Wen, where I was in service, when there appeared just before me a very pretty young lady of ordinary size. I had no fear, and when I came up to her put out my hand to touch her, but my hand and arm went right through her form. I could not understand this, and so tried to touch her repeatedly with the same result; there was no solid substance in the body, yet it remained beside me, and was as beautiful a young lady as I ever saw.
(1) After this remarkable story, Mrs. Jones told me about another very rare psychical experience of her own, which is here recorded because it Illustrates the working of the psychological law of the association of ideas:
Testimony from a Professor of Welsh
Just before crossing the Menai Straits I had the good fortune to meet, at his home in Llanfair, Mr. J. Morris Jones, M.A. (Oxon.), Professor of Welsh in the University College at Bangor, and he, speaking of the fairy-belief in Anglesey as he remembers it from boyhood days, said:
"In most of the tales I heard repeated when I was a boy, I am quite certain the implication was that the Tylwyth Teg were a kind of spirit race having human characteristics, who could at will suddenly appear and suddenly disappear. They were generally supposed to live underground, and to come forth on moonlight nights, dressed in gaudy colours (chiefly in red), to dance in circles in grassy fields.
Recordings from North Carnarvonshire
On leaving Anglesey I undertook some investigation of the Welsh fairy-belief in the country between Bangor and Carnarvon. From the oldest Welsh people of Treborth I heard the same sort of folklore as we have recorded from Anglesey, except that prominence was given to a flourishing belief in Bwganod, goblins or bogies. But from Mr. T. T. Davis Evans, of Port Dinorwic, I heard the following very unusual story based on facts, as he recalled it first hand:
William Jones, who some sixty years ago declared he had seen the Tylwyth Teg in the Aberglaslyn Pass near Beddgelert, was publicly questioned about them in Bethel Chapel by Mr. Griffiths, the minister; and he explained before the congregation that the Lord had given him a special vision which enabled him to see the Tylwyth Teg, and that, therefore, he had seen them time after time as little men playing along the river in the Pass. The minister induced Jones to repeat the story many times, because it seemed to please the congregation very much; and the folks present looked on Jones's vision as a most wonderful thing."
Recordings from South Carnarvonshire
To Mr. E. D. Rowlands, head master of the schools at Afonwen, I am indebted for a summary of the fairy-belief in South Carnarvonshire:
"According to the belief in South Carnarvonshire, the Tylwyth Teg were a small, very pretty people always dressed in white, and much given to dancing and singing in rings where grass grew. As a rule, they were visible only at night; though in the day-time, if a mother while hay-making was so unwise as to leave her babe alone in the field, the Tylwyth Teg might take it and leave in its place a hunchback, or some deformed object like a child. At night, the Tylwyth Teg would entice travellers to join their dance and then play all sorts of tricks on them." (1)
1) Here we find the Tylwyth Teg showing quite the same characteristics as Welsh elves in general, as Cornish pixies, and as Breton corrigans or lutins; that is, given to dancing at night, to stealing children, and to deceiving traveller.
Fairy Cows and Fairy Lake-Women
"Some of the Tylwyth Teg lived in caves; others of them lived in lake-bottoms. There is a lake called Llyn y Morwynion, or "Lake of the Maidens", near Festiniog, where, as the story goes,
Recordings from Merionethshire
Mr. Louis Foster Edwards, of Harlech, recalling the memories of many years ago, offers the following evidence:
Scythe-Blades and Fairies
"In an old inn on the other side of Harlech there was to be an entertainment, and, as usual on such occasions, the dancing would not cease until morning. I noticed, before the guests had all arrived, that the landlady was putting scythe-blades edge upwards up into the large chimney, and, wondering why it was, asked her. She told me that the fairies might come before the entertainment was over, and that lithe blades were turned edge upwards it would prevent the fairies from troubling the party, for they would be unable to pass the blades without being cut."
"Tylwyth Teg" and their World
"There was an idea that the Tylwyth Teg lived by plundering at night. It was thought, too, that if anything went wrong with cows or horses the Tylwyth Teg were to blame. As a race, the Tylwyth Teg were described as having the power of invisibility; and it was believed they could disappear like a spirit while one happened to be observing them. The world in which they lived was a world quite unlike ours, and mortals taken to it by them were changed in nature. The way a mortal might be taken by the Tylwyth Teg was by being attracted into their dance. If they thus took you away, it would be according to our time for twelve months, though to you the time would seem no more than a night."
Fairy Tribes in Montgomeryshire
From Mr. D. Davies-Williams, who outlined for me the Montgomeryshire belief in the Tylwyth Teg as he has known it intimately, I learned that this is essentially the same as elsewhere in North and Central Wales. He summed up the matter by saying:
Belief in Tylwyth Teg
It was the opinion that the Tylwyth Teg were a real race of invisible or spiritual beings living in an invisible world of their own. The belief in the Tylwyth Teg was quite general fifty or sixty years ago, and as sincere as any religious belief is now."
A Deacon's Vision
"A deacon in my church, John Evans, declared that he had seen the Tylwyth Teg dancing in the day-time, within two miles from here, and he pointed out the very spot where they appeared. This was some twenty years ago. I think, however, that he saw only certain reflections and shadows, because it was a hot and brilliant day."
Folk-Beliefs in General
"As I recall the belief, the old people considered the Tylwyth Teg as living beings halfway between something material and spiritual, who were rarely seen. When I was a boy there was very much said, too, about corpse-candles and phantom funerals, and especially about the Bwganod, plural of Bwgan, meaning a sprite, ghost, hobgoblin, or spectre. The Bwganod were supposed to appear at dusk, in various forms, animal and human; and grown-up people as well as children had great fear of them."
A Minister's Opinion
Ultimately there is a substance of truth in the fairy-belief, but it is wrongly accounted for in the folklore: I once asked Samuel Roberts, of Llanbrynmair, who was quite a noted Welsh scholar, what he thought of the Tylwyth Teg, of hobgoblins, spirits, and so forth; and he said that he believed such things existed, and that God allowed them to appear in times of great ignorance to convince people of the existence of an invisible world."
In Cardiganshire; and a Folklorist's Testimony
No one of our witnesses from Central Wales is more intimately acquainted with the living folk-beliefs than Mr. J. Ceredig Davies, of Llanilar, a village about six miles from Aberystwyth; for Mr. Davies has spent many years in collecting folklore in Central and South Wales. He has interviewed the oldest and most intelligent of the old people, and while I write this he has in the press a work entitled The folklore of Mid and West Wales. Mr. Davies very kindly gave me the following outline of the most prominent traits in the Welsh fairy-belief according to his own investigations:
"The Tylwyth Teg were considered a very small people, fond of dancing, especially on moonlight nights. They often came to houses after the family were abed; and if milk was left for them, they would leave money in return; but if not treated kindly they were revengeful. The changeling idea was common: the mother coming home would find an ugly changeling in the cradle. Sometimes the mother would consult the Dynion Hysbys, or "Wise Men" as to how to get her babe back. As a rule, treating the fairy babe roughly and then throwing it into a river would cause the fairy who made the change to appear and restore the real child in return for the changeling."
"Tylwyth Teg" Marriage Contracts
"Occasionally a young man would see the Tylwyth Teg dancing, and, being drawn into the dance, would be taken by them and married to one of their women. There is usually some condition in the marriage contract which becomes broken, and, as a result, the fairy wife disappears usually into a lake. The marriage contract specifies either that the husband must never touch his fairy wife with iron, or else never beat or strike her three times. Sometimes when fairy wives thus disappear, they take with them into the lake their fairy cattle and all their household property."
"Tylwyth Teg" Habitations
"The Tylwyth Teg were generally looked on as an immortal race. In Cardigan-shire they lived underground; in Carmarthenshire in lakes; and in Pembrokeshire along . the sea-coast on enchanted islands amid the Irish Sea. I have heard of sailors on seeing such islands trying to reach them; but when approached, the islands always disappeared. From a certain spot in Pembrokeshire, it is said that by standing on a turf taken from the yard of St. David's Cathedral, one may see the enchanted islands." (1)
(1) This folk-belief partially sustains the view put forth in our chapter on Environment, that St. David's during pagan times was already a sacred spot and perhaps then the seat of a druidic oracle.
"Tylwyth Teg" as Spirits of Druids
"By many of the old people the Tylwyth Teg were classed with spirits. They were not looked on as mortal at all. Many of the Welsh looked on the Tylwyth Teg or fairies as the spirits of Druids dead before the time of Christ, who being too good to be cast into Hell were allowed to wander freely about on earth."
Testimony from a Welshman Ninety-four Years Old
At Pontrhydfendigaid, a village about two miles from the railway-station called Strata Florida, I had the good fortune to meet Mr. John Jones, ninety-four years old, yet of strong physique, and able to write his name without eye-glasses. Both Mr. J. H. Davies, Registrar of the University College of aberystwyth, and Mr. J. Ceredig Davies, the eminent folklorist of Llanilar, referred me to Mr. John Jones as one of the most remarkable of living Welshmen who could tell about the olden times from first-hand knowledge.
Pygmy-sized "Tylwyth Teg"
"I was born and bred where there was tradition that the Tylwyth Teg lived in holes in the hills, and that none of these Tylwyth Teg was taller than three to four feet. It was a common idea that many of the Tylwyth Teg, forming in a ring, would dance and sing out on the mountain-sides, or on the plain, and that if children should meet with them at such a time they would lose their way and never get out of the ring. If the Tylwyth Teg fancied any particular child they would always keep that child, taking off its clothes and putting them on one of their own children, which was then left in its place. They took only boys, never girls."
Human-sized "Tylwyth Teg"
"A special sort of Tylwyth Teg used to come out of lakes and dance, and their line looks enticed young men to follow them back into the lakes, and there marry one of them. If the husband wished to leave the lake he had to go without his fairy wife. This sort of Tylwyth Teg were as big as ordinary people; and they were often seen riding out of the lakes and back again on horses."
"Tylwyth Teg" as Spirits of Prehistoric Race
"My grandfather told me that he was once in a certain field and heard singing in the air, and thought it spirits singing. Soon afterwards he and his brother in digging dikes in that field dug into a big hole, which they entered and followed to the end. There they found a place full of human bones and urns, and naturally decided on account of the singing that the bones and urns were of the Tylwyth Teg." (1)
(1) Here we have an example of the Tylwyth Teg being identified with a prehistoric race, quite in accordance with the argument of the Pygmy Theory. We have, however, as the essential idea, that the Tylwyth Teg heard singing were the spirits of this prehistoric race. Thus our contention that ancestral spirits play a leading part in the fairy-belief is sustained, and the Pygmy Theory appears quite at its true relative value as able to explain one subordinate ethnological strand in the complex fabric of the belief.
A Boy's Visit to the "Tylwyth Teg's' King
"About eighty years ago, at Tynylone, my grandfather told me this story:
(1) This story is much like the one recorded by Giraldus Cambrensis about a boy going to Fairyland and returning to his mother (see this study, p. 324). The possibility that it may be an independent version of the folk-tale told to Cambrensis which has continued to live on among the people makes it highly interesting.
In Merlin's Country; and a Vicar's Testimony
The Rev. T. M. Morgan, vicar of Newchurch parish, two miles from Carmarthen, has made a very careful study of the folk-traditions in his own parish and in other regions of Carmarthenshire, and is able to offer us evidence of the highest value, as follows: (1)
(1) As a result of his researches, the Rev. T. M. Morgan has just published a new work, entitled The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Newchurch (Carmarthen, 1910).
Tylwyth Teg" Power over Children
"The Tylwyth Teg were thought to be able to take children. "You mind, or the Tylwyth Teg will take you away," parents would say to keep their children in the house after dark. It was an opinion, too, that the Tylwyth Teg could transform good children into kings and queens, and bad children into wicked spirits, after such children had been taken perhaps in death.
"Tylwyth Teg" as Evil Spirits
A few days after my return to Oxford, the Rev. T M. Morgan, through his son, Mr. Basil I. Morgan, of Jesus College, placed in my hands additional folklore evidence from his own parish, as follows:
"Tylwyth Teg's" Path
The first narrative illustrates that the Tylwyth Teg have paths (precisely like those reserved for the Irish good people or for the Breton dead), and that it is death to a mortal while walking in one of these paths to meet the Tylwyth Teg.
"Tylwyth Teg" Divination
The second narrative I quote:
And the third narrative asserts that a man in the parish of Trelech who was fraudulently excluded by means of a false will from inheriting the estate of his deceased father, discovered the defrauder and recovered the estate, solely through having followed the advice given by the Tylwyth Teg, when (again as in the above account) they were called up as spirits by a dyn hysbys, a Mr. Harries, of Cwrt y Cadno, a place near Aberystwyth. (1)
(1) In these Inst two anecdotes, as in modern 'spiritualism", we observe a popular practice of necromancy or the calling up of spirits, so-called 'materialization" of spirits, and spirit communication through a human 'medium", who is the dyn hysbys, as well as divination, the revealing of things hidden and the foretelling of future events. This is direct evidence that Welsh fairies or the Tylwyth Teg were formerly the same to Welshmen as spirits are to Spiritualists now. We seem, therefore, to have proof of our Psychological Theory [Why – no. - TK] (see chap. xi).
Testimony from a Justice of the Peace
"Tylwyth Teg" and their King and Queen
"The general idea, as I remember it, was that the Tylwyth Teg were only visitors to this world, and had no terrestrial habitations. They were as small in stature as dwarfs, and always appeared in white. Often at night they danced in rings amid green fields. Most of them were females, though they had a king; and, as their name suggests, they were very beautiful in appearance. The king of the Tylwyth Teg was called Gwydion ab Don, Gwyd referring to a temperament in man's nature. His residence was among the stars, and called Caer Gwydion. His queen was Gwenhidw. I have heard my mother call the small fleece-like clouds which appear in fine weather the Sheep of Gwenhidw." (1)
(1) Here we have a combination of many distinct elements and influences. As among mortals, so among the Tylwyth Teg there is a king; and this conception may have arisen directly from anthropomorphic influences on the ancient Brythonic religion, or it may have come directly from druidic teachings. The locating of Gwydion ab Don, like a god, in a heaven-world, rather than like his counterpart, Gwynn ab Nudd, in a hades-world, is probably due to a peculiar admixture of Druidism and Christianity: at fIrst, both gods were probably druidic or pagan, and the same, but Gwynn ab Nudd became a demon or evil god under Christian influences, while Gwydion ab Don seems to have curiously retained his original good reputation in spite of Christianity (cf. p. 320). The name Gwenhidw reminds us at once of arthurs queen Gwenhwyvar or "White Apparition"; and the sheep of Gwenhidw can properly be explained by the Naturalistic Theory. It seems, however, that analogy was imaginatively suggested between the Queen Gwenhidw as resembling the Welsh White Lady or a ghost-like being, and her sheep, the clouds, also of a necessarily ghost-like character. All this is an admirable illustration of the great complexity of the Fairy-Faith.
"Tylwyth Teg" as Aerial Beings
Mr. Williams's testimony continues, and leads us directly to the Psychological or Psychical Theory: "As aerial beings the Tylwyth Teg could fly and move about in the air at will. They were a special order of creation. I never heard that they grew old; and whether they multiplied or not I cannot tell. In character they were almost always good."
Ghosts and Apparitions
Our conversation finally drifted towards ghosts and apparitions, as usual, and to Druids. In the chapter dealing with Re-birth (pp. 390 - 1) we shall record what Mr. Williams said about Druids, and here what he said about ghosts and apparitions:
Conferring Vision of a Phantom Funeral
"There used to be an old man at Newchurch named David Davis (who lived about 17801840), of abernant, noted for seeing phantom funerals. One appeared to him once when he was with a friend. "Do you see it? Do you see it?" the old man excitedly asked. " No," said his friend. Then the old man placed his foot on his friend's foot, and said, "Do you see it now?" And the friend replied that he did." (1)
(1) The parallel between this Welsh method of conferring vision and the Breton method is very striking (cf. p. 215)
Magic and Witchcraft
Finally, we shall hear from Mr. Williams about Welsh magic and witchcraft, which cannot scientifically be divorced from the belief in fairies and apparitions: "There used to be much witchcraft in this country; and it was fully believed that some men, if advanced scholars, had the power to injure or to bewitch their neighbours by magic. The more advanced the scholar the better he could carry on his craft."
Additional Evidence from Carmarthenshire
My friend, and fellow student at Jesus College, Mr. Percival V. Davies, of Carmarthen, contributes, as supplementary to what has been recorded above, the following evidence, from his great-aunt, Mrs. Spurrell, also of Carmarthen, a native Welshwoman who has seen a canwyll gorff (corpse-candle):
Bendith y Mamau
"In the Carmarthenshire country, fairies (Tylwyth Teg) are often called Bendith y Mamau, the 'mothers' Blessing.""
How Ten Children Became Fairies
"Our Lord, in the days when he walked the earth, chanced one day to approach a cottage in which lived a woman with twenty children. Feeling ashamed of the size of her family, she hid half of them from the sight of her divine visitor. On his departure she sought for the hidden children in vain; they had become fairies and had disappeared."
In Pembrokeshire; at the Pentre Evan Cromlech
Our Pembrokeshire witness is a maiden Welshwoman, sixty years old, who speaks no English, but a university graduate, her nephew, will act as our interpreter. She was born and has lived all her life within sight of the famous Pentre Evan Cromlech, in the home of her ancestors, which is so ancient that after six centuries of its known existence further record of it is lost. In spite of her sixty years, our witness is as active as many a city woman of forty or forty-five. Since her girlhood she has heard curious legends and stories, and, with a more than ordinary interest in the lore of her native country, has treasured them all in her clear and well-trained memory.
Fairies and Spirits
"Spirits and fairies exist all round us, invisible. Fairies have no solid bodily substance. Their forms are of matter like ghostly bodies, and on this account they cannot be caught. In the twilight they are often seen, and on moonlight nights in summer. Only certain people can see fairies, and such people hold communication with them and have dealings with them, but it is difficult to get them to talk about fairies. I think the spirits about us are the fallen angels, for when old Doctor Harris died his books on witchcraft had to be burned in order to free the place where he lived from evil spirits.
"I have seen more than one death-candle. I saw one death-candle right here in this room where we are sitting and talking."
Gors Goch Fairies
Now we began to hear more about fairies:
Levi Salmon's Control of Spirits
"Levi Salmon, who lived about thirty years ago, between here and Newport, was a magician, and could call up good and bad spirits; but was afraid to call up the bad ones unless another person was with him, for it was a dangerous and terrible ordeal. After consulting certain books which he had, he would draw a circle on the floor, and in a little while spirits like bulls and serpents and other animals would appear in it, and all sorts of spirits would speak. It was not safe to go near them; and to control them Levi held a whip in his hand. He would never let them cross the circle. And when he wanted them to go away he always had to throw something to the chief spirit."
The Haunted Manor and the Golden Image
I offer now, in my own language, the following remarkable story:
(1) This is the substance of the story as it was told to me by a gentleman who lives within sight of the farm where the image is said to have been found. And one day be took me to the house and showed me the room and the place in the wall where the find was made. The old manor is one of the solidest and most picturesque of its kind in Wales, and, in spite of its extreme age, well preserved. He, being as a native Welshman of the locality well acquainted with its archaeology, thinks it safe to place an age of six to eight hundred years on the manor. What is interesting about this matter of age arises from the query, Was the image one of the Virgin or of some Christian saint, or was it a Druid idol? Both opinions are current in the neighbourhood, but there is a good deal in favour of the second. The region, the little valley on whose side stands the Pentre Evan Cromtech, the finest in Britain, is believed to have been a favourite place with the ancient Druids; and in the oak groves which still exist there tradition says there was once a flourishing pagan school for neophytes, and that the cromlech instead of being a place for interments or f or sacrifices was in those days completely enclosed, forming like other cromlechs a darkened chamber in which novices when initiated were placed for a certain number of days the interior being called the "Womb or Court of Ceridwen".
Hundreds of parallel stories in which, instead of ghosts, fairies and demons are said to have revealed hidden treasure could be cited.
In the Gower Peninsula, Glamorganshire
Our investigations in Glamorganshire cover the most interesting part, the peninsula" of Gower, where there are peculiar folklore conditions, due to its present population being by ancestry English and Flemish as well as Cornish and Welsh. Despite this race admixture, Brythonic beliefs have generally survived in Gower even among the non-Cults; and because of the Cornish element there are pixies, as shown by the following story related to me in Swansea by Mr. , a well-known mining engineer:
"At Newton, near the Mumbles (in Gower), an old woman, some twenty years ago, assured me that she had seen the pixies. Her father's grey mare was standing in the trap before the house ready to take some produce to the Swansea market, and when the time for departure arrived the pixies had come, but no one save the old woman could see them. She described them to me as like tiny men dancing on the mare's back and climbing up along the mare's mane. She thought the pixies some kind of spirits who made their appearance in early morning; and all mishaps to cows she attributed to them."
Testimony from an Archaeologist
The Rev. John David Davis, rector of Llanmadoc and Cheriton parishes, and a member of the Cambrian Archaeological Society, has passed many years in studying the antiquities and folklore of Gower, being the author of various antiquarian works; and he is without doubt the oldest and best living authority to aid us. The Rector very willingly offers this testimony:
Pixies and "Verry Volk"
"In this part of Gower, the name Tylwyth Teg is never used to describe fairies; Verry Volk is used instead. Some sixty years ago, as I can remember, there was belief in such fairies here in Gower, but now there is almost none. Belief in apparitions still exists to some extent. One may also hear of a person being pixy-led; the pixies may cause a traveller to lose his way at night if he crosses a field where they happen to be. To take your coat off and turn it inside out will break the pixy spell. (1)
(1) The same remedy is prescribed in Brittany when mischievous lutins or corrigans lead a traveller astray, in Ireland when the good people lead a traveller astray; and at Rollright, Oxfordshfre, England, an old woman told me that it is efficacious against being led astray through witchcraft. Obviously the fairy and witch spell are alike.
A "Verry Volk" Feast
"I heard the following story many years ago: The tenant on the Eynonsford Farm here in Gower had a dream one night, and in it thought he heard soft sweet music and the patter of dancing feet. Waking up, he beheld his cow-shed, which opened off his bedroom, filled with a multitude of little beings, about one foot high, swarming all over his fat ox, and they were preparing to slaughter the ox. He was so surprised that he could not move. In a short time the Verry Volk had killed, dressed, and eaten the animal. The feast being over, they collected the hide and bones, except one very small leg-bone which they could not find, placed them in position, then stretched the hide over them; and, as the farmer looked, the ox appeared as sound and fat as ever, but when he let it out to pasture in the morning he observed that it had a slight lameness in the leg lacking the missing bone." (1)
(1) The same sort of a story as this is told in Lower Brittany, where the corrigans or lutins slaughter a farmer's fat cow or ox and invite the farmer to partake of the feast it provides. If he does so with good grace and humour, he finds his cow or ox perfectly whole in the morning, but if he refuses to join the feast or joins it unwillingly, in the morning he is likely to find his cow or ox actually dead and eaten.
Fairies among Gower English Folk
The population of the Llanmadoc region of Gower are generally English by ancestry and speech; and not until reaching Llanmorlais, beyond Llanridian, did I find anything like an original Celtic and Welsh-speaking people, and these may have come into that part within comparatively recent times; and yet, as the above place-names tend to prove, in early days all these regions must have been Welsh.
Dancing with Fairies
"A man, whose Christian name was William, was enticed by the fairy folk to enter their dance, as he was on his way to the Swansea market in the early morning. They kept him dancing some time, and then said to him before they let him go, "Will dance well; the last going to market and the first that shall sell."
"An old woman, whom I knew, used to find money left by the fairies every time they visited her house. For a long time she observed their request, and told no one about the money; but at last she told, and so never found money afterwards.
Nature of Fairies
The fairies (verry volk) were believed to have plenty of music and dancing. Sometimes they appeared dressed in bright red. They could appear and disappear suddenly, and no one could tell how or where."
Much more might easily be said about Welsh goblins, about Welsh fairies who live in caves, or about Welsh fairy women who come out of lakes and rivers, or who are the presiding spirits of sacred wells and fountains, (1) but these will have some consideration later, in Section III. For the purposes of the present inquiry enough evidence has been offered to show the fundamental character of Brythonic fairy-folk as we have found them. And we can very appropriately close this inquiry by allowing our Welsh-speaking witness from the Pentre Evan-country, Pembrokeshire, to tell us one of the prettiest and most interesting fairy-tales in all Wales. The name of Taliessin appearing in it leads us to suspect that it may be the remnant of an ancient bardic tale which has been handed down orally for centuries. It will serve to illustrate the marked difference between the short conversational stories of the living Fairy-Faith and the longer, more polished ones of the traditional Fairy-Faith; and we shall see in it how a literary effect is gained at the expense of the real character of the fairies themselves, for it transforms them into mortals:
(1) See Sir John Rhys, Celtic folklore: Welsh and Manx (Oxford, 1901), passim.
Einion and Olwen
My mother told the story as she used to sit by the fire in the twilight knitting stockings:
From Wales we go to the nearest Brythonic country, Cornwall, to study the fairy-folk there.
Glta: Norberg-Schulz, Christian. Genius Loci: Towards a Phenomenology of Architecture. London: Academy, 1980.
Mme: Kearney, Richard. Modern Movements in European Philosophy. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1986.
Tff: Evans-Wentz, Walter Yeeling. The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries. London: H. Froude, 1911. Online at Sacred-Texts: [www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/ffcc/index.htm]
Tfg: Findhorn Community. The Findhorn Garden: Pioneering a New Vision of Humanity and Nature in Cooperation. Forres: The Findhorn Press, 1979.
Th: Maclean, Dorothy. To Hear the Angels Sing: An Odyssey of Co-Creation with the Devic Kingdom. Herndon, VA: Lindisfarne Books, 1980.
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